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St. Vincent lifts visa restrictions ahead of Cricket World Cup

May 11, 2024

CMC – The St. Vincent and the Grenadines government says it has lifted visa requirements for cricketing countries except Afghanistan ahead of next month’s T20 Cricket World Cup.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told Parliament during the debate on the ICC Cricket World Cup West Indies Bill, that his administration lifted the restrictions on Wednesday but is spending a lot of time “addressing the security question”.

“And we are doing so within a regional context and our allies, particularly the United States, Canada, Britain, France and the Netherlands because we have to have it safe,” he said.

Gonsalves told legislators some countries have visa restrictions for some cricketing nations, noting only Afghanistan passport holders require a visa to enter St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, said about four weeks ago, government imposed visa requirements on Nepal and Bangladesh, two cricketing nations.

“We had done so on Bulgaria also because there are some — two aircraft, one coming out of Nigeria and one coming out of Dubai by way of Morocco, wanted to bring several hundred people here including a number of Indians.”

He said the passengers were heading to Nicaragua and the pilots were Bulgarians, as was the registration of the aircraft.

Gonsalves said there were a lot of Nepalese and Bangladeshis on board, so Kingstown imposed visa restrictions on those countries.

“They were from India, too, but the same week I was seeing the Indian ambassador and we are dealing with that in a different way,” Gonsalves said, adding that on Wednesday, the Cabinet removed the visa restrictions.

“It had a purpose for us to stop any of these people who want to come here, essentially, where some were trafficking — it looks to me as though it was going to be trafficking in persons, looks to us in the security forces.”

Gonsalves said Jamaica had that same problem “with another set of people” recently who landed in the country and Kingston had to provide hotel accommodation for them.

“We didn’t do that,” Gonsalves said, adding, “We made sure we stopped you in your track early as we have stopped an airline which wanted to come out of Venezuela with some Cubans, using us as a transit to Nicaragua.”

“You can’t use our country in that way,” he said and emphasised that Afghanistan is the only country in Cricket World Cup for whom Vincentian visas are required.

“All what will happen, they will get their visas very easily and the provision is made in the law,” Gonsalves said, noting that there is an advanced passenger information system.

“That will be sent, we’ll send it to the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security,” Prime Minister Gonsalves said, referring to the CARICOM agency.

“The checks will be done and everybody will be cleared. I don’t think that anybody is going to have any problems with that. And we’re doing our coordination.”

Gonsalves told Parliament that he received on May 2 a letter from Maurice Edwards, chair of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) indicating that “things are going so well that … the committee isn’t needed anymore because the works are almost completed”.

Prime Minister Gonsalves said two cranes are due to arrive from Barbados on Friday to erect the floodlights at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex.

“Within a few days, those lights should all be up, the six of them. There’s something to be done additionally at the mound …they have to put up one of the lights by the mound.”

He said that the government will, over the next three months, also install floodlights at the Vincent Beache National Stadium in Diamond, where a football field is located.

“We are very conscious of the fact that we have to put an excellent maintenance team in place including not just with the buildings but for the lights and the scoreboards and all those things. They are high technical stuff, gym equipment,” Gonsalves said.

“We have to make sure and the National Sports Council has to be restructured and proper maintenance systems and all the rest of it,” he said, adding that he was glad that the bill had received bipartisan support.

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