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New Border Control Agency to be rolled out next month

A new agency to protect Bermuda’s borders will begin “soft implementation” on September 1, despite reports of Customs officers being confused over the move, Government has announced.

As

The Royal Gazette reported yesterday, more than 50 disgruntled Customs officers have quit the Bermuda Public Services Union due to the Border Control Agency.

They are said to have left due to a dispute over their job benefits when working with the new agency, as they feel they should have parity with police officers on issues such as pensions and early retirement.

According to BPSU vice-president Jason Hayward, a faction within Customs saw the new agency “as an opportunity for a split” with the union.

However, Mr Perinchief told a press conference yesterday the new arrangements have involved consultation and information-sharing and he hopes “all officers will continue to work together with us to keep Bermuda’s borders safe”.

In measures first announced by Premier Paula Cox late last year, the National Security Ministry is taking over the enforcement side of Customs through the new Department of Border Control. The department has been formed by an amalgamation of the elements of HM Customs and the Department of Immigration already engaged in that function.

The Revenue Collection portion of Customs remains under the Ministry of Finance.

Yesterday, Mr Perinchief said a team from National Security and Finance has been working on “a workable model for this new approach to safeguarding Bermuda’s borders,” which will roll out in a “soft implementation” on September 1.

In an apparent reference to reports of upset Customs officers, he said: “These recommendations were the result of detailed discussions and followed consultation with affected staff in both ministries, a general meeting with the officers of HM Customs and meetings with the BPSU as the representative union.

“The team answered questions, allayed fears and shared as much information as possible with a wide group, and by and large I am satisfied that the process through which they have gone is a sound one. It is significant that this view has been endorsed by Cabinet who has given approval to the recommendations also.”

He added: “I am aware of the views of some affected members of the organisation that this change is not welcomed and is unclear. I support their right to have that opinion, but I wish members of the public to know that the Ministry has been clear and open from the outset and our hope is that all officers will continue to work together with us to keep Bermuda’s borders safe.”

He added: “Day in and day out, men and women in this country provide an exceptional service at our borders. Recent efforts between HM Customs and the Bermuda Police Service indicate that a strong working relationship exists between the uniformed services in the area of interdiction of drugs and illegal goods. The creation of a single border control agency will only enhance the efforts of these dedicated officers.”

Asked about parity of job benefits for police and Customs officers, the Minister said: “We are addressing that. We recognise that some roles and responsibilities may change and there’s a process that’s ongoing.”

Minister of National Security Wayne Perincheif held a press conference yesterday to speak on border control with Winifred Fostine DeSilva the Collector of Customs, Dr Danette Ming acting cheif immigration officer and Anne Allain consultant to the department of immigration. (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published August 12, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 12, 2011 at 9:26 am)

New Border Control Agency to be rolled out next month

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