CHARMAINE GANDHI-ANDREWS, CHIEF IMMIGRATION OFFICER TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews is a career public servant. She joined the Trinidad and Tobago Public Service in 1984 and became an Immigration Officer at the Ministry of National Security in 1989. She rose through the ranks of the Immigration Division and in 2015 was appointed to lead the Division as the Chief Immigration Officer; she is the first female to be appointed to this position in Trinidad and Tobago. As Chief, Charmaine oversees a broad migration mandate for Trinidad and Tobago including border control, passport and visa control; investigations, prosecution and deportation of foreign nationals in breach of the laws; and assistance to vulnerable migrants.
Charmaine holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and Management and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of London; and a Master of Science, with distinction, in Public Sector Management from the University of the West Indies. She has received extensive training in migration management, human trafficking and refugee law from Georgetown University in the USA, the International Institute for Humanitarian Law in Italy, the United States Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia, USA, the US State Department, the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Since joining the Immigration Division, Charmaine has led several initiatives from computerizing the operations of the Division to drafting and implementing policy and legislation and facilitating training. She recently led the government’s Migrant Registration Framework, an amnesty to allow Venezuelan nationals, who fled to Trinidad and Tobago seeking relief from the economic crisis in Venezuela and who were in the country illegally, to remain and work in Trinidad and Tobago for up to one year; over sixteen thousand Venezuelan nationals were registered in a two week period.
But it is raising awareness about human trafficking and
ending the exploitation of victims that she is most passionate about. Charmaine
has been involved in anti-human trafficking activities since 2009. Working
closely with the International Organization for Migration, local NGOs and other
agencies, she led the investigation, identification, rescue, rehabilitation and
reunification of victims with their families. She advocated for and was
actively involved in the development and implementation of policies and
legislation on trafficking in persons in Trinidad and Tobago. When the
country’s Trafficking in Persons Act was proclaimed in 2013, Charmaine led the
establishment of Trinidad and Tobago’s Counter Trafficking Unit and continued
the fight against this heinous crime, finally able to prosecute the
perpetrators. In 2014 she was one of 10 persons selected from across the world
by the US State Department to be honoured as a hero acting to end modern day
slavery at a ceremony in Washington DC where she spoke on behalf of the heroes.
With 30 years of experience in different facets of migration, Charmaine has seen firsthand the evolution of migration in this region, but it is the smuggling of migrants that threaten the security of a country and the trafficking of persons that threaten the freedom of an individual that she believes are the ugliest part of this evolution which must be understood and eradicated.