KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 25, IWN – A number of persons holding Vincentian passports are unable to say how they became citizens of the country, Chief Immigration Officer, Stanford Hamilton, says.

The situation has prompted the Cabinet to establish a committee to examine documents that these persons possess.

“… we discover that a lot of things may have happened that requires a new look … as to how we reconcile our records, our passport system, our Registry and so on,” Hamilton said on radio Thursday in response to a complaint by a woman.

The woman said her husband was born in St. Lucia and gained Vincentian citizenship before this country became independent in 1979, and has held several Vincentian passports.

She, however, said that when he went to renew his passport recently, he was told there is a process he has to go through before he could be granted a new passport.

Hamilton said, “… given the problems that the [Immigration] Department is encountering, a procedure has been established that if a person who has held a passport needs to apply to have that passport reviewed, they must submit their documentation again.

“In submitting the documents, half of them are unable to establish how they become a citizen and how they came in possession of that documents.”

He said that under the committee established by Cabinet, persons “who are unable to account for how they received that passport, … can, through the process, [and] apply if they are [citizens] by marriage.

“… we have a lot of those persons who claimed to have been married to a Vincentian, [who] have never registered as a citizen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but held the passport.”

He said these persons are offered an opportunity “to regularise their status by having the procedure done properly.

Those persons would go to the Ministry of National Security and make the claim there, Hamilton said, adding that several persons have done that, “because they recognise the need for the State to reconcile the issue of citizenship.

“Nationality is too important an issue to allow the mistakes of the past to drag on. We need to move forward and we need to move forward with affirmative action,” he further said.

Vincentian citizenship and the process through which the nation’s passport is issued have come under scrutiny over the past few years.

The Government has described the Opposition’s proposed economic citizenship programme as tantamount to selling passports and has objected to it.

And, last September, Ottawa revoked this country’s visa waiver status, saying that several persons who have been deported from Canada were able to return to the country with passports issued under new names.

The Government has defended the integrity of the Vincentian passport and the process through which it is issued and has taken steps to try to ensure that the documents presented as part of the passport application process are genuine.

At least one person has been jailed recently for obtaining a passport in the name of a deceased person.