For many Jamaicans, the issue of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) border controls and immigration remains a vexed one – uncomfortable and sometimes emotive. We will recall the high-profile case of Jamaican Shanique Myrie, which ended up in the Caribbean Court of Justice. It is exactly five years since Myrie arrived at the Grantley Adams Airport in Barbados and was denied entry. She was detained overnight and subjected to a humiliating body search by immigration officials. Myrie was awarded damages in the sum of US$38,000 and her legal costs were paid by the Barbados Government.
This was a landmark case, in many ways strengthening belief in the CCJ as a relevant institution (many were somewhat ambivalent about the regional court’s usefulness). The CCJ ruled that CARICOM nationals may enter member states, without harassment or impediment, for a stay up to six months. It also gave guidelines for interpretation of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas on the subject of free movement. Now, CARICOM states must give anyone they deny entry written reasons for their refusal and must also advise them of their entitlement to a judicial review.
Problems still linger, however. Two years ago, Trinidad and Tobago’s National Security Minister noted there were over 110,000 illegal immigrants living in the country – including 19,500 Jamaicans. Now, a television report this week focused on some Jamaican women who claim they were badly treated and denied entry at Trinidad’s international airport. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has put out two press releases on the topic. I am printing them below, as it’s important to know what the procedure is in such matters.
March 23, 2016:
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade notes, with concern, the reports made in and to the media about the alleged ill-treatment of Jamaicans recently denied entry to Trinidad and Tobago.
Although the Ministry has received no formal complaint on the reported incident, we wish to advise concerned members of the public that the High Commission of Jamaica in Port-of-Spain has brought the media reports to the attention of the Trinidad and Tobago Immigration Department and will also meet with the Ministry of National Security of Trinidad and Tobago and Caribbean Airlines in relation to the complaints.
The High Commission expects to be provided with a report once the necessary investigations have been completed, and we will be advised accordingly.
The Ministry also wishes to take this opportunity to remind Jamaicans that:
(i) There is a CARICOM Complaints Procedure which may be used to ensure that nationals who have been denied entry, detained or mistreated at the ports of entry of other CARICOM countries may file a formal complaint with the Ministry on return to Jamaica;
(ii) The complaint forms are available on arrival at the airports in Jamaica;
(iii) Once a complaint is received, an investigation is conducted with the relevant authorities in the CARICOM country concerned; and
(iv) Jamaican nationals may also make reports directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
March 25, 2016
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade notes with concern, media reports of Jamaicans recently ill-treated and denied entry to Trinidad and Tobago.
Senator, the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade called on the persons affected to make formal reports at the Ministry: “I was very upset by the accounts given in the video circulated on social media, but incidents like these must be reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade so that we can better represent your interests. We need you to give us information so we can support investigations.”
She continued: “We invite each of you, please come to our Dominica Drive offices and make your report, so that we can also work on preventing the recurrence of these incidents in so far as possible. The more information we have, the better.”
The Ministry advised that immediately following the newscast on the Jamaicans denied entry to the twin-island republic and their alleged ill-treatment, it alerted the Jamaican High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago, which then communicated with high level staff at the Trinidad and Tobago Immigration Department. A meeting with the Ministry of National Security of Trinidad and Tobago and Caribbean Airlines has also been confirmed in short-order, on the matter.
An internal investigation at the airport in Trinidad and Tobago has also begun and the Jamaican High Commission will be provided with a report upon completion.
In closing, the Ministry reminds the public that there is a formal CARICOM complaint form that can be filled out at either national airport upon return to Jamaica.
Contact: Ann-Margaret Lim Tel: (876) 564-4241