The Caribbean region’s “particular vulnerability” to trans-border crime – from drug and arms trafficking to human trafficking and smuggling – underscores the importance of continued cooperation between regional law enforcement agencies, including Customs and Immigration Departments, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of National Security Mrs. Missouri Sherman-Peter told a regional gathering.

Addressing the recent Fifth Joint Meeting of the Standing Committees of Immigration and Customs officials of the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), Mrs. Sherman-Peter said the “plethora” of crime and security threats to CARICOM Member States and to the region are becoming increasingly more complex and challenging.

Mrs. Sherman-Peter said that, as a first and important contact for persons and goods entering Caribbean countries, immigration and customs services are no doubt benefiting from the more comprehensive, cooperative and structured regional approaches to crime and security in their areas of responsibility.

“These regular meetings afford immigration and customs officials the opportunity to exchange information and ideas, agree on best practices, to create linkages that would improve the effectiveness of their work, and to bring coherence to our collective efforts and use of resources,” Mrs. Sherman-Peter said.

“Each meeting, in the continuum of Meetings of the framework for the management of crime and security in the region, provides essential input into the decisions that Heads of Government make to reinforce and expand initiatives for CARICOM security,” Mrs. Sherman-Peter added.

Mrs. Sherman-Peter told regional delegates that The Bahamas was pleased to be a part of the initiative to mainstream regional security within CARICOM and applauded IMPACS and its Executive Director for the work they are doing in conjunction with the CARICOM Secretariat, to ensure “the more effective implementation of regional crime and security strategies and policies.”

“We are pleased to be a part of the new security architecture, built as it is, on a philosophy of regional self-help and international cooperation,” she said. “It is a system that makes available to us as Member States, important technical resources and support such as the Regional Intelligence Fusion Centre (RIFC) and the Joint Regional Communications Centre (JRCC).”

Mrs. Sherman-Peter said that “as an entrant joining the process” there are some specific programmes that would not be immediately implemented by The Bahamas in part, because of the “peculiar nature” of the problems and challenges the country faces in the areas of immigration and customs.

“We are, however, fully prepared to do our part, in concert with our sister CARICOM States, to collectively meet the crime and security challenges in the region. We are confident that this Joint Meeting will provide essential input into the work of the CARICOM framework for the management of crime and security and will make its necessary contribution to initiatives to reduce the region’s vulnerability to the grave crime and security threats we face,” Mrs. Sherman-Peter added.

IMPACS was established based on the recommendations of the Ministers, Conference of Heads of Government at its 26th Session held in July, 2005, who agreed to establish a Framework for the Management of Crime and Security in the region. At the head of the Framework is the Conference of Heads of Government to whom the system is accountable through the Prime Minister with responsibility for crime and security.

A major step forward was the creation of a Council of Ministers with responsibility for National Security and Law Enforcement which reports to the Conference Heads of Government through the Prime Minister with responsibility for crime and security. A Sub-committee of Ministers responsible for National Security and Law Enforcement was also established to focus specifically on resource mobilization, implementation and other urgent matters.

A Security Policy Advisory Committee (SEPAC) was also established, comprising representatives at the level of Permanent Secretary, Advisor or other senior policy officials and chairpersons of a number of Standing Committees of CARICOM Heads of Operational Entities.

IMPACS is the “nerve centre” of the Management Framework with primary responsibility for the implementation of the regional crime and security agenda, reporting directly to the Council of Ministers. It is also responsible for the day-to-day administrative and technical functions required to fulfill its mandate. Research, evaluation and monitoring, analysis and preparation of background documents, project development and implementation and centralization and dissemination of information are among its key functions.