Charmaine Ghandi-Andrews Chief Immigration Officer

Days after Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews sent out letters to officers warning them that severe penalties can be imposed if they are found distributing sensitive and confidential information, the officers are demanding that the letters be expunged from their files.

The CIO’s warning came in a letter issued on May 13, days after Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s virtual news conference where she showed scanned copies of Passenger Declaration Forms and Manifest of Passengers (Embarking/Disembarking) in Transit Forms related to the March 27, 2010 visit of Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez.

The letters indicated to officers that “these forms contained the private data and declarations of certain foreign nationals who gained entry into T&T in March 2020, all collected by and held in the custody of officers of the Immigration Division.”

Gandhi-Andrews pointed out Section 41(1) of the Immigration Act and warned: “Any officer found on evidence to have committed or aided in the commission of such a breach, shall be treated with accordingly.”

A senior immigration officer said the flight information could have been leaked from three other agencies, other than the Immigration Division.

“One would be Data Entry, people who would have entered the work, Civil Aviation and the Travel Index at the airport that would see those documents in the form that they are in, that is, the declaration with the cards and the exemption letter that was sent to the Chief Immigration Officer,” the officer said.

The officer, who did not want to be identified for fear of victimisation, said no investigation was done into the matter and the letter in their files has implications.

“Those letters would be placed on their personal files. That document now has the potential to jeopardise any upward movement in the division plus any future career prospects.

“It is unfair that they are being written when no investigation was done to determine who did it.”

The senior officer explained to Guardian Media that there is a process to inform officers of implications of something like this, which is through a staff notice.

“The officers are now looking to seek legal redress to have the letters expunged from their files. Failing which, they will go to Court,” the officer said.

Questions were sent to the CIO, however, up to yesterday she failed to respond.