Basseterre, St Kitts – Prime Minister Dr. Terrance Drew says the authorities have uncovered “ a ring” resulting in illegal marriages taking place here and raising the possibility that the twin island Federation is being used for human trafficking.
Prime Minister Drew, who is also Minister of National Security and immigration, told Parliament the illegal marriages involved individuals from the Spanish community that allows them to be granted citizenship and voting rights.
“Madam Speaker, I found in my own Ministry a ring, a ring of illegal marriages. Madam Speaker, let me tell you how this ring works because I have it written down here. There is somebody in Santo Domingo who’s charging a lot of money for a visa.
“You pay them for a visa there, they have a connection here. So you buy a plane ticket and you come in with your very expensive visa of which this government is only making 10 per cent. When they come in Madam Speaker, a husband or wife is waiting for them.”
Prime Minister Drew told legislators that they then get married resulting in the payment of more money.
“From the time they get married, the same day, sometimes in their wedding garments, they [go] for their Certificate of Marriage, after they get the Certificate of Marriage, they get their Certificate of Citizenship and [go into] the Electoral Office for [an] Id. Once they go for their ID Madam Speaker, they are paid a certain sum of money and their name is included on an electoral list to vote,” he said.
Prime Minister Drew said that while it is possible that some of the marriages are genuine, some of the individuals involved in the marriage ring have been abusing the system, by marrying and divorcing several times to gain money.
“Madam Speaker, I am speaking the truth…I have a box of a few hundred [cases]. I don’t even know where to start, because among them might be real marriages; but because there are so [many] fake marriages among them, you don’t even know where to start, Madam Speaker.
“Thousands upon thousands of dollars; and this is how it works- “You come, you marry, you divorce, you marry again and then you pass on the citizenship here, there and everywhere. That is how it works Madam Speaker. Those persons who are involved in it will say “well [give] me a EC$3 000 and then they divorce and then they look for another marriage because that’s another quick EC$3 000.”
Drew said that he had a meeting with the Latino community here and explained to them what the government had identified. He also said that conversations with some of the Spanish nationals proved that there is no real relationship between them and their marriage partner.
“I went to a meeting with the [Spanish] Community and they have legitimate concerns which we have to address because, as was said, we cannot treat people less than human; but at the same time, every country must have rules, laws and regulations as I said to them.
“Not even in their own country can it be done like that. “You’re asking a married person, “what is your husband’s name? [and they respond] “Well I think – I can’t remember the first name” and [they’re] married. [They were] saying to the AG (Attorney General) or saying to the officials, “well, I don’t know his name; I call him babes.
“I spoke to them directly. I had a meeting with the [Spanish] community, because I said, we’re going to treat people humanely; but I told them, this is what I uncovered and discovered and therefore, we cannot continue that path.
“It’s a whole ring where we were even being questioned to be part of human trafficking. Madam Speaker, people have to be responsible for these things. Our country was going down the drain,” Drew told Parliament.
Former prime minister and national security minister, Dr. Timothy Harris was not present in the Parliament when Prime Minister Drew made the statement calling on his predecessor to publicly respond to the situation. (CMC)