Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 13th 2014 Contents A6
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, November 13, 2014
Nigerian detainee, Tine Okodeo
Kings, 40, who was just released
from the detention centre, is now
married to a Trinidadian. Speaking
to the media at the Emancipation
Centre, Bergerac Road, Maraval,
Kings said he came in, undocument-
ed, through a small port in Cedros
He said he did not know why he
came to Trinidad.
"I got a ticket to go to Brazil for a
job and there I realised that the job I
was promised was not actually the way
it was explained to me and then I was
stranded... so someone comes to me
and says there is this land flowing with
milk and honey, T&T, there are jobs,
you could make some good dollars.
That is how I came here," he said.
Kings said he made a connection
with a Trinidadian who owned a boat
and paid the man US$250 for a ride
"in a fig boat on the high seas" to
Cedros. He said it was a small boat
that travelled through shark-infested
Back home in Nigeria, Kings was a
teacher and was initially supposed to
run a restaurant in Brazil.
Describing conditions in the deten-
tion centre, he said: "The beds are like
baby beds, the kind I buy for my six-
year-old son and it is a double-decker,
so when the man on top is shifting, it
shifts. The windows are louvres so at
night you get a lot of mosquito bites.
Otherwise the place is not hygienic. It
is a prison."
Kings said he was at home last year
with his wife of seven years when
immigration officers picked him up.
He said conditions at the centre were
worse for the women and claimed a
female detainee had committed suicide.
His wife posted a bond for his release
and even after it was posted, he was
remanded for months. Kings was at
the centre for over a year before finally
being released into his wife's custody,
according to a document signed by the
Minister of National Security.
Attorney Farid Scoon,
who represents several
detained at the National
Detention Centre, Arima,
Guyanese and Syrian mir-
grants were being given
preferential treatment by
the immigration author-
To support his view, he
produced a 2004 internal
circular, issued by the Chief
which, he said, ordered
that the cases of African
nationals seeking exten-
sions to stay in the country
have to be escalated to
Immigration senior offi-
Scoon said the processes
for other nationalities were
"Before an immigration
officer can grant an exten-
sion, even if you have a
work permit, he has to go
to the assistant chief,"
That circular used to
included migrants from the
Middle East and Far East
but in recent times the
Trinidad and India has
changed, he said, and he
did not know why there
was that disparity in treat-
ment between the races.
"I cannot say but there
is a discriminatory policy
enshrined in the immigra-
tion policy where they treat
African nationals differ-
ently from how they treat
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other nationals," he said.
He also said he had evi-
dence of the disparity in
treatment of African
migrants as opposed to
Scoon confirmed that
according to local laws,
once someone is married
to a T&T national, they
automatically qualify for
He said he was aware of
cases where conglomerates
in Trinidad hired consult-
ants to source and retain
Guyanese workers to work
"On the one hand you
are saying undocumented
immigrants are taking
away from our jobs, and
on the other hand you are
allowing certain persons in
the society to bring in
migrants by the hundreds
to have jobs in T&T," he
He said they receive
work permits because of
the influence of restaurant
Scoon also raised ques-
tions on whether there was
a pact between the Syrian
community and the gov-
ernment to allow nationals
into the country because
of the crisis in Syria.
"Why is not the same
courtesy being extended to
Africans?" Scoon asked.
The T&T Guardian tried
to contact Griffith but was
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'Syrians, Guyanese get easy approval'
Kambon: Horrors for
migrants from Africa
Kambon: Smear campaign against Africans
Emancipation Committee chairman
Khafra Kambon is accusing Minister
of National Security, Gary Griffith, of
using "smear campaigns" to discredit
the horrors endured by the African
men held at the National Detention
"We are seeing two trends in the
conversation coming, especially from
the Minister of National Security,
who keeps linking undocumented
migrants with crime and fake
"We think we can discuss a major
issue of concern without smears
against persons who are victims,"
Kambon said yesterday.
He was speaking at a media
conference at the committee's office,
Bergerac Road, Maraval.
He said the treatment meted out
to the detainees who entered the
country illegally was a violation of
"Human rights conventions
actually recommend that not be
treated as a criminal act, even though
it is against the law of the country,"
There was a sentiment the
Emancipation Committee was
recommending that all African
detainees should be released, but
that was not so, he said, and there
had been correspondence between
the committee and the Ministry of
National Security in which it
recommended sending migrants back
home rather than keeping them
locked up indefinitely.
"We feel there should be equality
of treatment for everyone. We can
say, without any fear of
contradiction, because the evidence
is there and we dare anyone to say
"The reality is that there is
particular discrimination in the
treatment of the migrants that come
here from the continent," he said.
Kambon countered Griffith's
statement that migrants cases
would be studied to regularise their
individual cases, saying there were 23
African detainees at the centre but
that had since increased to 27 and he
had evidence that the State was
planning to send them back to Africa.
"The State is seeking to charter a
plane to take these migrants home. It
is discriminatory to have an open
door to other people, where they can
come in and have their cases heard,
and at the same time shut the door
on those who are already in
detention," he added.
'Lured by land of milk, honey'
Chairman of the Emancipation Support Committee Khafra Kambon hugs African
migrant Gregory Moses following a press conference at committee's office on
Bergerac Road, Maraval yesterday. Moses was recently granted refugee status
after being detained at the detention centre for three years. PHOTO: JEFF MAYERS
National Security Minister Gary
Griffith yesterday dismissed all
allegations made by Emancipation
Committee chairman Khafra
Kambon and lawyer Farid Scoon.
In a telephone interview yester-
day, Griffith said Kambon and
Scoon were misleading the public
as he had the statistics to show that
of the 640 people repatriated "a
handful" were Africans.
"The majority is from the region,"
He said the two men also were
misleading the public by saying
African men were being profiled or
treated worse among the detainees.
Griffith did admit that there had
been allegations of mistreatment
at the centre and said both his junior
Security Minister Embau Moheni
and the Chief Immigration Officer
were investigating and compiling a
report for him.
"We will put things in place to
ensure there is no recurrence of
that but again, this is not treatment
specific to the African detainees.
These were reports across the
board," he said.
Griffith dismisses allegations
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