Our Readers' Opinions
November 13, 2009

Deplorable customer relations at airport Immigration Dept.


EDITOR: I take the time to write of a horrendous experience endured on my first return visit (Aug. 27 -Sept. 01) to SVG after 15 years abroad.

I visited to spend time with my mother and my son (who was spending the summer vacation there) and was greeted with less than pleasant /cheerful immigration officers (your first entry point to SVG!).{{more}} However, excited to see the island that I had long left and my mother, I ignored the lack of welcoming attitude and spent my short (five days) visit with my mom, visited some friends and did some sightseeing.

On my appointed return date, I was greeted at the airport by a Liat ticket agent with the strange news that I could not leave the island on the current passport (expiry date of 2012) in my possession. Bear in mind that this is the passport that I presented to the “sour-faced” young lady at the customs entry point on my landing four days prior!

That was the beginning of the nightmare. I politely asked for an explanation and was told that I had the “green” passport and needed the new “blue” passport. Wow, very intelligent response. I was instructed to take up the matter with a supervisor at the immigration section.

Ensuing panic begins! I entered the customs area and inquired of the supervisor and other officers present as to the reason and solution to my dilemma. The nonchalant attitude commenced – “didn’t you get the memo?”

“Well, maybe you could try to get into town and get a new passport” – knowing full well that this is impossible to accomplish in a space of one hour (remember, I leave at 10:00); to which my response was to remind her that the obvious responsibility was on the Immigration Department to have informed me (as they are aware of the rules) that on my entry you will be allowed to enter on the incorrect passport (as stupid as that is) but you will need to update this to leave the country. Moreso, as it is obvious to the officer that I was entering for a period of four days and had not been to the country in 15-plus years!

Understand I now reside in New York and am not aware of the day-to-day changes that happen in a country approximately 2000 miles away, as I am sure that you do not keep up with the changing laws in other countries as a day-to-day habit either.

I must, on the other hand, compliment the other individuals at the passport office in Kingstown and one helpful lady in the court house who helped me acquire a passport in record time. When I got the new passport at 10 a.m. it was too late for the flight and as a result incurred the added expense of purchasing two new tickets.

The entire lack of professionalism and “blasé blasé” attitude would infuriate even the most patient individual.

I have been informed that there were other individuals who suffered the same fate even up to a few weeks ago and have been “stranded” for three or more days.

St. Vincent I will always love, but there needs to be an awakening of the “sloths” that present the first welcoming doormat to a lovely island.

Richard Velox