Airport Immigration Treating Bajans Like Aliens

Chief Immigration Officer Erine Griffith (r) Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean (c) Senator Darcy Boyce (r)

Where there is a will there is a way. Through the year when members of the BU household have had to travel, a discussion has always erupted about the  difference in approaches by the immigration departments of United Kingdom, US and a few other places compared to Barbados concerning how nationals returning from overseas trips are processed.  The ‘Aliens’ have their passports scrutinized with the obligatory questions posed, the passports of the nationals are scanned in seconds with minimal delay. It seems the intent is always to get nationals through the process with minimum discomfort.

On the other hand Barbadians returning home, if they are unfortunate to be caught in the melee created when several planes converge at Grantley Adams International airport, have to endure the painful process of having passports checked and immigration documents reviewed. One would have thought in 2011 with machine readable passports a scan of the passports should be all that is required to capture relevant information. The truth is Barbados’ situation is not unique, a visit to most islands in the Caribbean will replicate the sorry tale.

Maybe there is nothing that can be done and Barbadians should tolerate delays ‘clearing’ immigration as a necessary evil. Perhaps it is a bureaucratic process which has become so routinized that locals have resigned themselves to the inevitable. Not to forget the process maybe influenced by a civil service mentality. There maybe very good reasons why Barbadians returning home are made to feel less than than sons and daughters of the soil when they have to endure long delays as a result of airport immigration processing. The regionalists will put the same argument for Caricom national.

Home drums beat first!

Even the tourists and non residents have a case, especially those visiting the island during July and August (Crop Over) to expect well manned immigration cubicles!

After all, tourism is our lifeline.

0 thoughts on “Airport Immigration Treating Bajans Like Aliens


  1. I do understand what you are saying and agree with you 110%. Somethings doesn’t really change in Barbados. Their are so many different people who are shot callers for just about everything you can think of; So many changes has to go through channels, Which many times leads to a dead end;
    Barbados should by now have an Air Port which is well manned by its immigration taking care of business without any problems to those that are returning from vacations;
    Others will always come first with the immigration because its all about making others feel welcome who they feel are visiting to spend money in Barbados; And yes you are correct in regards to having your pass port scanned to make things easier for Barbadians returning to Barbados. This is how it’s done here in the US by the immigration officers;
    For whatever reason or reasons OUTSIDERS coming into Barbados will ALWAYS get better treatment. I hope that one day this will all change so that all can feel welcome coming to Barbados one way or the other; ***EQUAL TREATMENT FOR ALL***;


  2. I travel in and out of barbados often here are the facts:

    1. Our immigration officer simply need retraining and sorry to say the ladies more them the men… Some of our female immigration officers are so filled with attitude it sometimes overflows their booths.

    2.black, white, or green visiting Barbados on a US or UK passport get no better treatment as I have observed…. It’s all poor.

    3.there is the strong existence of the civil servIce mentality at the airport generally, and it’s totally out of control.


  3. From a personal standpoint I have had no issues on return visits and queues are small compared to any I’ve encountered in the USA at Chicago, Newark, Kennedy, Tucson, Miami and especially at San Francisco or at many airports across Europe and in Canada.
    Neither have I had personal problems with attitude, but I know others who have. The one lady in from the UK who whilst trying to ask a question was barked at or a cousin returning after a business trip to Guyana who was asked where she had just come from. When she said Guyana – “Over there!” barked the officer. She – “What do you mean over there”, another “Over there!” was barked. Over there an officer of Guyanese extraction asked “What’s your story this time?”. This cousin was resident again in Barbados for over 24 years and was on World Bank business and travelling on a Barbadian passport.
    Once out of the airport attitudes are no better, actually can be worse and I’ve had one Italian colleague who complained of the way he was treated in Barbados and he was not alone as I’ve heard the same from English and ex-pats also, mirroring my own experiences.
    I cite anecdotal instances but they reflect the general attitude. If they don’t like your face you can be in for a hard time.
    In general you are made to feel more of a foreigner than I have experienced anywhere else on the planet I have visited, excluding Japan, China, Australasia and Africa, but from Singapore in the East right around to the West Coast of the USA including the deep South.
    Perhaps they don’t mean to be rude, just that they sadly lack any interpersonal skills.


  4. I get the impression that because someone was born in Barbados that they think that they should be immune from all border control checks.. How dare the Immigration Officer ask me that question? Doesn’t he know that I am from Barbados? My navel string bury here and I can come and go whenever I please.

    Why don’t you ask that American/Canadian/Chinese….. pick a nationality….. where he from? Yuh betta haul yuh ass.

    The grass is always greener on the other side.


  5. @Sargeant

    You missed the point, with machine readable passports validating the Bajan entry should be quick and painless and done with dignity.


  6. David

    Machine readable Passports or not that is not the be all or end allof the Immigration Officer’s job. You think that Americans or Canadians don’t under go the same hassles when they return top their countries?

    Some time ago I travelled to Barbados and the Immigration Officer spotted a typographical error in my passport ( issued by another country) that I hadn’t noticed. She spotted this by simply asking me a question, I had used this passport to enter other countries and I used it to enter the USA after that encounter. The error was made at the Passport Issuing Office and could have prevented my entry into these countries.

    I renewed that Passport this year prior to another trip to Barbados and pointed out the error to the issuing Office. On my visit to Barbados I was treated with the utmost respect by the Immigration Officer that doesn’t mean that some of the questions aren’t annoying but we spend so much time quibbling bout minor inconveniences is it any wonder that the big issues go abegging?.


  7. @Sarge

    Again you are missing the point. It is the little things sometimes which we have to get right if we are to deal with the bigger ones. How we treat our own i.e with pride and dignity is the spring board to better tackling what you probably regard as the important issues. Americans, British even Canadians are processed through immigration at a speed often two or three times faster than ‘aliens’.

    It does not mean their will not be exceptions nor does it mean there will not be good experiences by some.e little things sometimes which we have to get right if we are to deal with the bigger ones. How we treat our own i.e with pride and dignity is the spring board to better tackling what you probably regard as the important issues. Americans, British even Canadians are processed through immigration at a speed often two or three times faster than ‘aliens’.

    It does not mean their will not be exceptions nor does it mean there will not be good experiences by some.


  8. I am not sure if some of the statements and views purported by the bloggers are all true about the modus opernadi of our immigration officials. I am a frequent flyer in and out of Barbados. I have never really encountered a problem in the Caricom and returning nationals section. The lines from my recollection are never that long and the processing of passport information and related documentation if acquired takes a very short time. What I have a problem with is the manner in whch my bags are extensively searced whilst I watch tourist just waltz along without a single search.

    Also I am not expecting an immigration officer to be all smiley and nice but I do expect them to be professional in the execution of their duty. Now in parts of Europe and US where I travelled frequently the facial expressions of these workers are for the most part, if not all of the time. very serious and focus. This may be due the seriousness of the job and the fact that conveyance of a serious disposition is to dispel any notions held by guilty individuals that the use of tact and persuasion to con their way out of a suspicious situation that may result in their deportation or arrest, will not work.

    There are times when I have observed these officials in a more pensive mood, gesturing to the children of tourist in a friendly way as well as extending well wishes and welcomes to both locals and tourist alike. Maybe the encounters posted by some are a few bad occasions but those cannot be translated as the norm behaviours with Barbadian Immigration Officials. That brush in my opionion paints too big a negative picture.


    • At no time has the blog mentioned behaviour.

      The thrust of the message is the system of processing returning Bajans.

      For those of you have not encountered the delay in clearing immigration and customs you should try landing on the days when you can have Virgin, BA, Air Canada, AA, CAL and others spilling passengers.

      Let us toss out Crop Over which gets rediculous.


  9. The Airport staff setup is a major weakness in Barbados generally friendly reputation from top to bottom the attitudes are horrible. Immgration, customs and security personnel are stone faced, rude and unfriendly. They treat Bajans as bad as foreigners. Surprisingly the airline staff tend to be the few courteous and affable people at the Airport.

    One naturalised Bajan citizen married to a Barbadian living here for 40 years with grand children is given the third degree whenever she travels back home to Barbados. They always want to know how long she plans to stay in Barbados where she staying ad naseum and the woman is a professional lawyer with a permanent job and big settled family in Barbados. No one appears to understand why they so viscious compared to rest of the workforce. Their New York and Miami counterparts are a breath of friendly, chatty fresh air in comaparison. Security and safety at ports of entry are paramount we know that but cant one be vigilant and firm without being rude, unsmiling, spiteful, unwelcoming (to a tourist island mind you) treating all an sundry like they are intruders and criminals.

    The female officers in immigration, customs and security are arguably the most unmannerly and mean spirited in the Western hemisphere. As Bajans we support keeping the unwanted an unlawful elements out and we support our border checks, security and tax collection personnel but cant you conduct yourselves with basic courteousness and human kindness.Treat everyone like you will like them to treat you. Where is the famous Christian spirit barbados is known for at the Airport.


    • The issue is about using technology to improve immigration processing for Bajans.

      A machine readable passport is suppose to target the problem of forgery.

      A Bajan returning from an 8 hour trip at Crop Over should not have to stand in line for 2 hrs.

      Just yesterday for world cup people Bajans and others were being processed through immigration before you could shout snocone.

      Being BAJAN should mean something for chrissakes.


  10. I am sorry but my experience has been totally different to what is mainly being alleged here…passport taken, checked, a smile, “have a nice day/night”, on to luggagr and customs in 2 minutes or less!


  11. A dedicated line for Barbados citizens (taxpayers) will enhance the improvement which David so correctly recommends. If there is no dedicated line for Barbados Citizens, even with the improvement suggested, there will always be delays for Barbados citizens traveling on Barbados passports standing on a line which includes Caricom nationals who may have entry problems. No Trinidadian stands in line behind a non citizen at Piarco. Personally, I have not encountered delays or negativity with Immigration or customs officers in Barbados. I have always found them to be conscientious, efficient and courteous.


    • Bajans always the meek souls.

      Submitted on 2011/07/10 at 12:47 PM

      A dedicated line for Barbados citizens (taxpayers) will enhance the improvement which David so correctly recommends. If there is no dedicated line for Barbados Citizens, even with the improvement suggested, there will always be delays for Barbados citizens traveling on Barbados passports standing on a line which includes Caricom nationals who may have entry problems. No Trinidadian stands in line behind a non citizen at Piarco. Personally, I have not encountered delays or negativity with Immigration or customs officers in Barbados. I have always found them to be conscientious, efficient and courteous.


  12. @ Returning national
    David is talking about Barbados issued passports, not passports issued by foreign jurisdictions to foreign born naturalized Barbados citizens.


  13. There is such a thing as a forged Barbados Passport. People will never be satisfied ever. If they greeted you with smiles, you would say the smiles are false or not big enough.

    Just get over yourselves.


  14. jack spratt | July 10, 2011 at 10:39 AM |
    I am sorry but my experience has been totally different to what is mainly being alleged here…passport taken, checked, a smile, “have a nice day/night”, on to luggagr and customs in 2 minutes or less.

    For the last 25/30 years I’ve been travelling out of the island on average 3 times a year and have always encountered experiences similar to yours.
    Not very long ago travelling on a foreign passport (Dual Nat) I approached the Residents and Citizen’s Line at Immigration of the country of issue of the passport, only to be shouted at by an immigration officer, “GET IN THE OTHER LINE,” indicating the one for Visitors. I smiled and complied . Even the so called big countries have their prejudices and inefficiencies.


  15. jack spratt, I have to agree. Traveling outside the island on average about once per year, my experience has been the same pretty much the same as yours when presenting my Bajan passport to one of the the GAIA immigration officers (whether male or female) on my return.

    js wrote:
    I am sorry but my experience has been totally different to what is mainly being alleged here…passport taken, checked, a smile, “have a nice day/night”, on to luggage and customs in 2 minutes or less!


  16. Apart from REDjet to shake up West Indian aviation, I think we need a competitive energy source (Anyone recall 1982 or so when BL&P had then-new equipment to prevent further blackouts, so they had to boost Bills as a result – SOUNDS FAMILIAR?) and not Wind from same BL&P but electricity be it solar or fossil from another company? Has BL&P ever lowered rates? Gas in odd spurts has been known to fluctuate but I cannot really recall when Electricity is DOWN and significantly so?


  17. I travel in and out of Barbados maybe 3 or 4 times a year, sometimes on a Barbados passport (issued in Barbados) and sometimes on a passport issued by another country sometimes called (tongue in cheek maybe) the great white north at all times I am processed quickly and courteously.

    But I am always courteous to Immigration staff, and I always have the correct documents in hand, correctly filled out.

    I’ve only once spent 2 hours in an Immigration line, and that was at Miami airport and then I was travelling with a large group, including dozens of children travelling without their parents. So yes Immigration there checked very carefully to ensure that all was well. Can’t blame them for being very careful.


  18. David, I note that the prevailing view has changed. Are you now saying that Barbadians should have a dedicated line at GAIA? I agree, but you did not say this in your opening. I got the impression you were saying that Bajans were treated like aliens. In my experience that is just not true!


  19. @Jack Spratt

    We are familiar with your comprehension skills. The system which currently exist that Barbadians have to wait one second longer than necessary is an affront to what is Bajan. We are coming home for chrisakes. It is why we question why the fact we have machine readable passports is not being maximized.t that Barbadians have to wait one second longer than necessary is an affront to what is Bajan. We are coming home for chrisakes. It is why we question why the fact we have machine readable passports is not being maximized.


  20. If you come in late at night the immigration people are more mannerly cause they want to leave, but coming in the daytime I find the women immigration workers have a very bad attitude, they ask me how long I staying on the island, where I would be staying and who am I going at. I have property in barbados so why is these questions relevant, and do they care how long you staying in barbados, if I overstay my time I already born in barbados so those questions make no sense at all. I think the immigration people especially the women need to stop with the bad attitude and do their jobs, bajan women always want to prove that they are in control.


  21. the last time I travelled to barbados I met a very nice customs officer a man, but the previous time I met with a woman officer, she was very mean and looked at my passport and looked at me, and then the questions started, how long you staying here, who and where are you staying at mam? and what is the address, to hell with those questions, if a born bajan that is s US citizen or citizen of another country wants to stay in barbados for a long long time no one can stop them, so those questions are baseless, my son that was born in the US, he gets better treatment than me, and he was born in the US, they treat him really good, which I was very happy to know. I think its because custom officer know they cant be fired too easily cause they got those unions to encourage them in bad behavior, but at least have some manners. If you guys gonna treat the white people nice, treat your own people just the same, we only coming from another soil, no big deal.


  22. Random Thoughts wrote, “But I am always courteous to Immigration staff, and I always have the correct documents in hand, correctly filled out.”

    I have traveled to Barbados with a Canadian passport about 30 times in the last 10 years and I have never had a problem with Immigration or customs.

    Maybe they feel sorry for me (coming in from the cold).

    Life lesson. Be pleasant to others and most of the time they will reciprocate.


  23. @ David, you are misinformed, a machine reader can detect forgery if there is a mistake in the machine readable zone. These days the algorithm used to get those numbers in your passport is readily available to forgers. Once the numbers are correct, no errors are detected. That’s why inspection with the eye is still required, looking for bad print quality and other things.


  24. In response to David (and others) requesting that Immigration Officers provide a quick reentry to Barbados for those Bajans who are returning after travelling abroad, I propose that the Officers ask two questions:

    1) What is a Bibidee?
    2) Where would I find a Skylark?

    If the responder can answer those two questions without stumbling send them on their way, if they can’t, send them for secondary inspection.


  25. But many Bajans on the whole do not like to join an orderly queue. It seems to rattle them . Take the PSV’s for example, they have caused the Ministry of Transport technocrats to introduce the Jam Buster and scrap the ED Mottley Roun-a-bout at the bottom of Bishop Courts Hill. Jam Busting now appear to be part of our culture, and many visitors have complained about waiting in a queue only to have a local barge ahead and demand service,which he often gets.
    But can you imagine, travelling from England , Canada or America, spending hours at one of those airports before boarding, spending at least another 4 hours in the air in the case of Canada and the USA, then landing at Grantley Adams and expecting express VIP treatment at the drop of a hat.


  26. Peoples do you understand the meaning of BORDER PATROL.
    These officers are not there to smile and allow whoever to come through. As for especially citizens who are returning why can’t the officer enquirer after your intended address. They don’t ask the question for their address book. It is a question on the entry/exit form. We sit on a plane or ship for however long and expect to enter a country without being questioned? Even so unless you are a business person without luggage, whenever you leave immigration you still have to wait on your luggage.
    Hell we place our money in the bank and if you don’t show the correct documentation you can’t get one red cent.

    Furthermore blame government for lack of equipment at the ports of entry. What’s wrong with finger print checks and eye ball recognition.

    Don’t you know that when we purchase a tickets to travel to the developed countries the name of the intended traveler is sent to the relevant agencies. By the time you land it is plain sailing, and even so you may be randomly questioned. Get the authorities to upgrade the systems.

    You think officers feel good going about their duties and knowing that it is so thankless a job?

    As a citizen I’m comfortable knowing that they have detained the traveler a few minutes for control than to allow a free for all and something untoward happens then for all sorts of problems arise.

    Think on these things.


  27. I tend to agree with the last post that the immigration officers at the end of the day, they are here for border control but I can appreciate that there maybe a school of thought that this can be a ‘service with a smile’.

    I can also appreciate that it would take longer to process locals as more checks need to confirm that person is who they say they are, the passport is not tampered in anyway, etc since once stamped, the person has no immigration limitiations (i.e. no end date of stay) so more detailed checks may be required.

    I would however say the relevant systems should be put in place to make use of machine readable passports. I’m dual nationality and when returning to the UK, its a very simple matter of the passport being scanned and you are away in a couple of minutes..

    On arriving in Barbados, it does take a bit longer when I present my Barbadian passport and it is clear that along with a couple of questions, the officer is also inspecting the passport and I will always argue that border control vs. a little longer wait is worth it. However, as Barbados is a very technology country, we should invest in systems to ensure that wait is minimised..


  28. Bajans are chronic complainers.I live in Toronto and for years travelled home with a Barbados passport that was expired in 1976.The only comment I got was we can’t stamp your passport as it is expired.When I was on my way home last November I was processed by a female in one minute or less.Try a bustrip from Toronto to the US with a Canadian passport and waiting for three hours or more at the border and having immigration treating you like an intruder.Could be some peoples’ attitudes are reflected in the treatment they receive.

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