GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CNS) – Britain’s ambassador to Cuba, Antony Stokes, signed up most of the UK’s Caribbean Overseas Territories to a new Caribbean Customs Organisation (COO) recently at the 41st Annual Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council (CCLEC) in Havana.
The treaty provides a legal framework to formalise and enhance an existing MOU first signed in 1989. It allows for the 36 signatories to cooperate and exchange information to fight customs offences in the region.
As one of the territories now signed up, the Cayman Islands will continue to strengthen positive regional and international relationships for enhanced border protection, officials said in a press release. The CCO will replace the CCLEC over a transition period of two years.
Cayman’s recent merger of the immigration and customs departments into the new Customs and Border Control (CBC) Agency was of particular interest to other countries’ customs bosses.
CBC Director Charles Clifford, who was at the conference along with his deputies Jeff Jackson and Garfield Wong, gave a presentation on the merger and the transition to an intelligence-led organisation.
According to CBC officials, Clifford and CBC deputies have made similar presentations at the Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council’s Executive Committee meeting in St Lucia, the Jamaica Customs Agency Senior Management Team meeting in Jamaica, and the CARICOM IMPACS Meeting of Chiefs of Immigration and Customs in Grenada.
At the CCLEC, Clifford said the merger was a long-term undertaking, managed by a steering group and a number of working subgroups. By taking a look at the past and researching how border protection works in the UK and US, the CBC formed relationships with international partners to further ensure that potential threats are addressed before goods or people reach the border.
Clifford said he was pleased to see the level of interest and engagement across the region on this initiative.
“As I have said previously, the operational merger is a multi-year project and once completed it will allow for more efficient deployment of our resources,” he said. “At each presentation, we were quick to point out that we are not experts at mergers but we are happy to share with our regional colleagues the methodologies and strategies which we employed to achieve the merger and the things that we would perhaps do differently were we starting over today,” he added.