Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 28th 2013 Contents NOVEMBER 2013 • WEEK FOUR www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG03
Chief editor-business: ANTHONY WILSON
Editing and design: NATASHA SAIDWAN
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Last week Tuesday, immigration
officers at Piarco detained and
deported 12 Jamaicans based on
the failed attempts by those offi-
cers to contact local hosts of the
Jamaicans, conflicting information from the
deported Jamaicans and their hosts, and hosts
residing illegally in T&T, among other rea-
That act by the T&T immigration officers,
quite predictably, has led to calls in Jamaica
for T&T products to be the subject of a boycott
in the north Caribbean state.
On the T&T side, both the Minister of
National Security Gary Griffith and Prime
Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar have defended
the actions of the officers.
"It seems so far, from the briefing received
from immigration through Minister Griffith,
that T&T has been well within its discretionary
powers in terms of refusing entry or disallowing
it, until further evidence may come forward,"
said the Prime Minister on Tuesday, in answer-
ing questions from reporters at the official
opening of a new police station in Arima.
The detention and deportation of the 12
Jamaicans is an important issue for the T&T
business community because of the vast
investment that T&T firms have in Jamaica
and the fact that Jamaica is an important des-
tination for T&T manufactured products.
The issue of the detention and deportation
of regional nationals is also important because
it has the ability to stain T&T s reputation as
a country that upholds the law, is respectful
of regional institutions and rights and does
not discriminate against Caricom nationals.
On October 4, the Caribbean Court of Justice
(CCJ) delivered the Shanique Myrie judgment,
which should be essential reading for everyone
in the region who is commenting on the denial
of entry and deportation of 12 Jamaicans at
Piarco last week.
The Shanique Myrie case involved a
Jamaican woman who was refused entry into
Barbados in March 2011 and deported the next
A big part of the judgment and of the
region s thinking on the right of free movement
stemmed out of an agreement that was reached
at the 28th Caricom Heads of Government
meeting in 2007.
At that meeting, Caricom heads "agreed
that all Caricom nationals should be entitled
to an automatic stay of six months upon arrival,
in order to enhance their sense that they belong
to and can move in the Caribbean Community,
subject to the rights of member states to refuse
undesirable persons entry and to prevent per-
sons from becoming a charge on public funds."
The CCJ judgment, which was deliberated
upon by seven judges, affirmed that Caricom
nationals have a right to free movement within
the 15-nation community "subject to the rights
of member states to refuse undesirable persons
entry and to prevent persons from becoming
a charge on public funds."
The essential elements of the right to free
movement within the region "is that both
entry and stay of a Community national in
another member state must not only be def-
inite but also hassle free or without harass-
ment or the imposition of impediments ,"
according to the judgment.
The CCJ judges held that the right of a
member state to refuse entry of a Caricom
national---on the basis of undesirability or eco-
nomic burden---must be construed as an
exception to, or a restriction on, the right of
Being an exception to a fundamental prin-
ciple of free movement, the CCJ argued: "The
scope of the refusal and, in particular, the
grounds on which it is based must be inter-
preted narrowly and strictly in order to avoid
an unjustified watering down of the importance
of the right it seeks to limit."
The law also requires that the burden of
proof rests on the member state that seeks to
invoke either ground---undesirability or bur-
den---for refusing entry.
The CCJ helpfully defined undesirability to
include such matters as the protection of public
morals, the maintenance of public order and
safety and the protection of life and health.
In the Myrie case, the CCJ determined that
"there were no indications, let alone evidence,
that she presented or was capable of presenting
such a threat" of being an undesirable person,
meaning that she did not present "on arrival
a genuine, present and sufficiently serious
threat affecting one of the fundamental inter-
ests of society."
The court found that the US$300 that Ms
Myrie had on her was enough to support
herself for the short period that she intended
to stay in Barbados.
The threat posed should, at the very least,
be one to do something prohibited by national
law. The national must pose a threat to do
something prohibited by national law.
The CCJ argued that given the exceptional
character of a decision to refuse a Caricom
national entry into a member state, that there
were procedural consequences that flowed:
• The reasons for refusal must be given to
a person denied entry;
• These reasons must be given promptly
and must be in writing;
• The Caricom national refused entry must
also be informed of their right to challenge
the decision to detain and deport;
• The CCJ advocated that such decisions
should be reviewed by a higher placed official
and that there "should be some form of judicial
oversight available at the domestic level;"
• The CCJ indicated that it expects Barbados
to interpret and apply its domestic laws liberally
so as to harmonise them with Community
law or, if this is not possible, to alter them.
I have seen no evidence that the 12 Jamaicans
who were denied entry and deported last week
were subject to the procedural consequences
of the Myrie case.
There is, for example, no evidence that the
reasons for their denial of entry and deportation
were provided to them in writing or that they
were told of their right to challenge the deci-
It seems that the concept that Caricom
nationals have a right to enter and stay in
T&T "without harassment or the imposition
of impediments" is not a concept that is famil-
iar to the Minister of National Security, the
Prime Minister or immigration officers who
were on duty at the airport last week Tues-
It follows, therefore, that based on the Myrie
case, the decision to detain and deport most,
if not all of the Jamaicans, was a breach of
their right to enter and stay in T&T as it failed
to follow the new precedent set by the CCJ
If Jamaica were to challenge the decision
by the T&T immigration officers, the T&T
authorities would have to prove that each of
the 12 Jamaicans was an undesirable or that
they would have constituted a charge on public
The onus, according to the judgment, is on
the T&T immigration authorities to prove
undesirability and economic burden.
In the context of the importance of T&T s
relations with Jamaica---and with all other
Caricom neighbours---would it be too much
to ask that the Prime Minister and the Minister
of National Security read the Myrie judgment
and form their own judgment about what it
Would it be too much to ask that the T&T
immigration authorities adjust their entry pro-
tocols to ensure that they accord with the
Myrie judgment and that T&T is in accordance
with regional best practice on this issue?
The implication that T&T is discriminating
against Jamaican nationals is too dangerous
for T&T s relations in Caricom for this to be
treated as anything but a frontburner issue.
T&T wrong to detain
and deport Jamaicans
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