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National Security Minister Stuart Young’s Christmas Day announcement of the introduction of a unit similar to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) in the North Coast community is good news to law-abiding residents.

Young revealed the initiative during a function for the IATF, noting the unit’s introduction in that community could help in stemming the illegal flow of drugs and guns into T&T. In this regard, it is good to hear that Minister Young has already engaged Police Commissioner Gary Griffith and Defence Force Chief of Staff Darryl Daniel on this plan. However, while the plan sounds plausible, this media house hopes the unit will also involve Immigration and Customs and Excise Division members since they too play critical roles in protecting T&T’s borders.

It is also hoped the unit will focus heavily on sea-based operations. This is because criminal elements involved in the drug, gun and human trafficking trades have significantly increased activity on the seas to meet the demands of hundreds of illegal migrants willing to pay significant sums of money to access T&T in recent months. The traffickers, in turn, are gaining entry to T&T via legal and illegal ports. Indeed, the T&T Coast Guard has been kept busy in cat-and-mouse games with illegal immigrants in coastal areas such as Cedros, Icacos, Los Iros, Erin, Chatham, Morne Diablo, Buenos Ayres, and Quinam.

It seems appropriate then, that Minister Young should turn his attention to a sea-based IATF-styled unit. Even more critical will be ensuring the new unit is properly equipped with the tools needed to achieve its goal. Alongside this should also come the beefing up of the T&T Coast Guard and T&T Police Service’s Marine Coastal Patrol Unit’s capabilities as well.

Minister Young was very elusive about the equipment capacity of the T&T Coast Guard in recent weeks as it related to the migrant-response issue. During Parliamentary debate, Minister Young referred to maritime assets, interceptor vessels and radar systems being augmented by regiment land patrols in the illegal migrant fight. The minister noted too that the T&T’s Air Guard support in this activity included an AW 139 helicopter and air assets but refused to quantify the numbers involved for national security reasons. Needless to say, John Public was left no more confident that law enforcement agencies are any better equipped to protect our borders from breaches, especially from migrants. From the events of the past weeks, it would appear that the criminals are gaining the upper hand and now, with external agencies on their own agendas complicating the migrant scenario, it is indeed hard to say that local law enforcement is winning that battle.

In this regard, we also hope that the latest plan is rolled out sooner rather than later. With 2021 looking just as tough as this year due to COVID-19, we hope too that all the arms of sea-based law enforcement are given all the tools they need to function effectively and efficiently.