One of our BFP readers took the time to write this thought-provoking commentary on the Cricket World Cup 2007 visa situation. We haven’t changed one word, but we have highlighted some words to provide visual breaks. Comments are open..
AT WHAT COST A LIFE TO CWC 2007 VISA ISSUANCE AUTHORITIES??
The countries and entities which collectively petitioned and won the bid to host CWC2007 made certain representations to ICC World Cup that they would, individually and severally, implement a security plan which would satisfy the ICC of their establishment and implementation of a comprehensive Master Security Plan.
To quote said Master Plan “to provide a safe and secure environment for the duration of the ICC CWC2007 “ and thereby “ensure the safety and security of players, match officials, tournament officials, spectators, sponsors, VIPs and other stakeholders” the latter category being loosely interpreted to include, but not be limited to, the citizens and nationals of the respective venues.
In planning for the safety of those persons “proximate” to the games, the aspect of “pre-examination of the incoming travelers”, is pivotal to the process of effective “profiling” of persons entering the region, (ostensibly) as viewers of the games.
A Memorandum of Intent between the Government of the United States of America and Member States of the Caribbean Community on Cooperation of the Development of and Advance passenger Information System reads, in part, “desirous of cooperating in the exchange of Information for use in the evaluation and facilitation of air and sea travelers arriving in or departing from a member State”, the signatories of the MOU expressed the intent to collaborate in the following areas (to name a few) by (a) enacting laws to mandate vessels arriving in and leaving from member states to provide passenger manifests in electronic format (b) permitting such data to be transmitted to the United States (c) denying entry to the territory of undesirables and (d) providing regional watch lists to the United States. (For those who recall the Ship Rider Agreement, It is of note that the MOI does not provide for reciprocal disclosure of API information arising from the US government)
Notwithstanding the unilateral elements of the MOI what has been proposed should, in theory, permit transmission of traveler information for background checks on manifested travelers to authorized agencies.
Enter the VISA scam.
Mr. Michael Agostini outgoing honorary Consul to Trinidad and Tobago in Australia is quoted “It is estimated that there will be about 7,000 Australians and up to 3,000 New Zealanders needing these visas, which will take up to three weeks to be issued, after filling out the forms from an internet site, Caricomimpacs.org, of which only a few travel agents are even aware, much less ordinary travellers. Simple logistics suggest that if each visa requires only 30 minutes of handling (but more like one or even two hours if security checks are to be made, as the site states), that would mean some 5,000 total, which obviously translates to 208 days total. And even if they put 50 people on to doing them that would still mean about 41 days or more, if all worked full-time, 24 hours daily! My God! Who did their homework on this?” (see World Cup Visa Chaos A Real Possibility)
The former T&T Consul introduces a very salient point which merits further examination in light of the US$40 miillion anticipated to be collected for the visa fees from 400,000 visitors estimated to visit the region for CWC2007. (As an aside, while recent dialogue has centered around the visa and its attendant onerous cost, one should note that departure taxes for each of these venues has not been factored into these deliberations and will assuredly be another matter for discussion by cricketing spectators.) Any smart businessman, as part of their strategy to generate an additional revenue stream through subscription fees, may chose to implement this strategy to get “more money” from a captive audience.
What is of more grave import than the fee being levied is the fact that visa issuance is a measure which governments, mindful of the security of their borders and the safety of their denizens, use to assist them in effecting “back-office validations”.
Governments post 9/11 need to know the authenticity of submitted ID documents.
Commensurate with this authentication of the identity of the traveler, the “Security Risk Status” of said person, in their respective countries of origin and sometimes previous Interim Domicile, is examined at that time. This is Visa Issuance 101 Lesson 1 which any bona-fide Immigration or Border Enforcement Authority knows and employs.
This is what “true security” for CWC2007 venues should entail and this is what the entity, entrusted to ensure security in our Small island Developing States, should be doing. These states, many of which are tourism dependent, CANNOT survive an adverse incident, of any type, similar to those which terrorists continue, daily, to wreak worldwide.
The fallacy rather ineffectiveness of the CARICOM visa that Mr. Agostini alludes to in his comments about the issuing the CARICOM visa, lies mostly in…
1. the time consuming and “archaic” visa issuance system implemented by the CARICOM Visa Issuance Authority (VIA)
2. its lack of meaningful back-office checks with ID issuing authorities of respondent governments and
3. the fact that said checks cannot or will not be effected in this compressed time.
Imagine the comments of an extra-regional government being asked by this VIA to (a) validate the ID document/passport of one of its citizens and additionally (b) provide Law Enforcement notifications and security risks statuses on the individual. One can easily hear the incredulity in their response “Who is this CARICOM which is asking my government to supply confidential information about my citizens to ….. where is it located again?
One would not even mention that even in CARICOM Member States, with regard to their intra border crossing procedures, the scrutiny which is accorded passports issued by the governments of Guyana and Antigua whose Immigration Department officials are puported to sell authentic travel documents, if the price is right.
To give a specific example on this matter, If as VIA would seek to convey, it receives a passport from a Frenchman wishing to come to the games, which authority will VIA validate the passport information with? Post World War II the French enacted into law a policy, which refuses to provide the national ID number (and associated data) to any external authority/government. This is a legacy (a word which CARICOM loves to use) of Hitler and his persecution of the Jews.
If one follows this scenario, what is going to the ID background check being conducted by VIA to (a) validate the identity and (b) security risk status of this applicant or any applicant from countires like this and other European/Asian/Continental jurisdictions which have similar non disclosure policies?
Let us provide a scenario which the United States would have used in their “sensitization of these third world countries. A potential terrorist, having secured an ID from said “non-compliant” or “regional jurisdiction of questionable passport issuance practices” would, now possessing a “non-validated, yet authentic ID document” be able to approach VIA. The CARICOM Visa Issuance Authority would asssuredly apply its Visa for US$100, a fee akin to the 30 pieces of silver that Judas received.
This terrorist, intent on staging an incident at the CWC2007 games as retribution to the support which, for example, Pakistan has given the US in its fight against terrorism, purchases this passport in this non-compliant state, a passport which is subsequently endorsed by the VIA, and proceeds to one of the venues where the Pakistan team and Pakistani supporters are playing to enact their Jihad.
It is precisely for this reason that comments that have been posted on several Cricket Websites stating that the Visa is “a farce” and cricketing spectators are paying US$100 “to fatten the pockets of Caricom” should be of concern.
The most efficient entity for visa issuance in the world is the USA. it is known worldwide how timely their visa issuance process is. It is to be noted that 75% of this superpower’s population DOES NOT have a passport. Under its Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, the US now requires that all of its citizens MUST have a passport to enter the US. It is an exercise which is slated to take years for 180 million of its citizens to get a passport.
What is the reasonable expectation of the ID/passport Issuance agencies in “Less Developed Countries” ?
What will be their ability to provide timely access to ID records for extraregional sources? It takes the Government of Barbados, one of the more developed countries in the Caribbean region (and possibly among the more efficient countries worldwide, see UNDP’s development index) some 2 weeks to issue a passport and several months to issue a work permit.
Other countries in the Caribbean archipelago are even more tardy in their passport and work permit issuance processes. The travails of a person, relocating to the Caribbean from outside the region, requiring a “Certificate of Character” from the authorities of their “prior cities of domicile”, is besieged with several problems and takes upwards of a year at times!
It is vital to understand the use and importance of background security checks.
The CARICOM visa or, any visa issuance procedure MUST include these checks and their non-subscription to serious “back-office” checks weakens the security cocoon for CWC 2007 jurisdictions and support several commentators underpin the posits that the CWC2007 visa is a farce.
Couple the administrative lethargy of regional governments in processing information with the “real-time” inability of their governments to secure “validated information” from e.g. the government of India with a population of 1.1 billion people or that of Pakistan with 168 million inhabitants, and one starts to see the magnitude, nay impossibility associated with the “vetting process” of CWC2007.
To announce that the pre-vetting process and commensurate validation of ID is “now going to be done in 3 days” is highly irresponsible and should be a concern of any travelers to the region. The statement discounts the value of human life and the non-cohesiveness of this extremely sensitive procedure.
A statement of this nature should be seen as one in a series of public release statements by CARICOM officials which are “ploys, tricks, “sleight of hand practices” voiced by verbal magicians and polemicists who, thinking themselves au-fait with the public psyche, feel assured that a pronouncement of this type will allay the fears of those who know what the true issues of regional security are and the scam that the CARICOM VISA presents.
No man or woman, whether they be Minister, Prime Minister or President can “wish away” a terrorist who can use the loopholes of this poorly thought out/executed CARICOM VISA to mete out their “Holy War”.
One is certainly left to wonder if, when the pre-bid documents to host this World Cup were submitted, how did such poorly planned critical aspects of a “people-centric” security plan, pass their approval standards?
ICC World Cup was so specific on marketing a T-shirt with the word 2007 yet it has abandoned the security requirements of the region.
The discerning traveler is now cautioned and should shift their focus from the smoke screen about cost of the visa, a moot point which pales into insignificance when juxtaposed against the poor design and function of the VIA.
As a cricket lover who has traveller the world to view matches for over 15 years, I am appalled that the lives of cricketing spectators are being put at risk by VIA’s callous, financially driven action.
Travellers are already hearing the pronouncements of the United Sates Department of State on the security rating they have assigned the region prior to and during these World Cup Games. Ironically the USA signed an MOU with CARICOM Member States in the furtherance of the Advance Passenger Information System, but they will NEVER risk the lives of American citizens by misleading them into a false sense of security through misrepresenting the VISA security checks and consequently have now publicly broadcasted their security assessments for this volatile environment.
One must examine the VIA claim to ask travellers to submit their passports for it to affix a VISA for visitors to the region and not having a mechanism to effecting “all possible security checks” in what assuredly has been a “security information vacuum”.