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But gov’t plans to reopen border in July still stands


THE Immigration Department is finalizing its operational plan called ‘Keepem me safe’ ahead of the reopening of the national borders in July.

Damien, who worked for Australian Immigration and Border Force for 21 years and invited by the government to establish a plan to reopen the borders for Solomon Islands, confirmed this during the Immigration Strategic Planning workshop in Honiara yesterday.

He said the Immigration Department will work with the Oversight Committee and National Security working group to implement the plan.

“Immigration is not a lead organization to dictate timing of reopen,” Damien explained.

“We need to work particularly with Department of Health, they will assess what the impact will be once the we open the border,” he said.

Damien said the main driver for the reopening could be economics, get people coming into tourism industry and so on.

“But got to balance the risks in terms of covid. It is still a real risk, a lot of people got covid, some recovered,” he said.

According to the plan, the Deputy Director of Immigration is the operation command.

His deputy command is the Chief Immigration officer and the Border Operation team will be the coordinating centre.

The forward command are the individual units in the Immigration teams like Passport Unit, Border Enforcement, Employment Visa, Immigration Operation, Border Control and Ports of Border.

Damien said the document will be finished off this week and submitting next week for approval and begin operation in terms of Immigration.

Further to that, Damien said Immigration recognised the risk of reopening the border as it could see rise of Covid 19 infection but got to balance it.

He said they need to be mindful as they are going to have organized criminal activities.

“Once border reopen, criminal networks will start targeting the country as well. We need to be on top of it,” he added.

Furthermore, Damien said it will be threat to frontline workers so need to ensure a covid free environment for them.

According to the Framework for the reopening came up by Oversight Committee, Solomon Islands is currently operating the Phase one that is easing of restrictions on international maritime and gradual increase of international flights.

Damien said Phase 2 is due to commend in May, that is removal of restriction at some point and increase flights, subject to vaccination rate.

He said Phase 3 is opening of border for provisions for bubble, some of the stuff still working on it, and commence in June.

Damien said in Phase 4, the border fully open with limited quarantine with three days only.

He said the thinking maybe July, up to medical advice and Oversight Committee to progress it with certain milestone they are happy with.

The workshop ends today.