Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 1st 2013 Contents A27
December 1, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
"Explore Our Islands,"
says the official
Web site. Perhaps 30 Haitians
drowned last Monday, doing just
They were among the 140
would-be migrants packed onto
a 40-foot wooden sloop which
ran aground in stormy weather
on the Exuma Cays, 200 km
south of Nassau.
Survivors were picked up by
the coast guard, dehydrated and
hungry, a week s sailing from
their homeland. They will, no
doubt, be deported.
On Wednesday, 56 Haitians
were caught by the coast guard
on another sloop, north of tiny
Ragged Island. There s a contin-
uing flow. The Bahamas deported
2,525 Haitians last year.
Some get through the net. On
US estimates, from 30,000 to
60,000 Haitians live permanent-
ly in the Bahamas.
Their Bahamas-born children
have no right to Bahamian pass-
ports. They can apply for citi-
zenship, but only during the 12
months following their eigh-
teenth birthday. They may wait
years for a response. Meanwhile,
they are in practice stateless.
The Bahamas and Haiti are
both members of Caricom,
which has protested strongly and
rightly against a worse injustice
in the Dominican Republic,
whose constitutional court on
September 23 ruled that descen-
dants of undocumented Haitian
migrants moving there since
1929 have no right to citizenship.
They cannot even get the
Dominican Republic birth certifi-
cate which is a requirement for
going to school, getting married,
even for buying a cellphone. An
old certificate is no use---they
expire after 90 days.
The ruling covers 85-year-olds
who crossed the border as small
babies and any of their descen-
dants who have not acquired a
Dominican Republic parent or
granny along the way. On some
counts, that adds up to around
Until 2004 they were citizens;
then the Dominican Republic s
Congress reset the rules. The
Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights protested. But the
Supreme Court has now sup-
ported congress; there is no fur-
A Dominican Republic pass-
port, meanwhile, brings a frosty
welcome in Antigua. A few
thousand Spanish-speakers have
migrated there, mainly to earn
fast cash. Not all are officially
Among the 12 members of
Caricom s Single Market and
Economy all should be sweetness
and light. It isn t.
In principle, the right of estab-
lishment allows any Caricom cit-
izen to set up a business and to
provide or receive services in any
In principle, the free move-
ment rules allow people with
skills to travel to another mem-
ber state for six months and look
for work. Besides the original
categories, that now covers nurs-
es, teachers, those with a skilled
trade, domestic workers with a
skills certificate, and anyone with
an associate degree or two CAPE
passes. No work permit needed.
For others, there is in principle
a more general right to hassle-
Shanique Myrie, a Jamaican
woman, then 22 years old, found
a good few hassles when she
tried to get into Barbados in
2011. She took her complaints to
the Caribbean Court of Justice,
which ruled in October this year.
The CCJ ruling set a strong
standard for open borders. It
holds that the right to an "auto-
matic stay" on arrival "does not
depend on discretionary evalua-
tions of immigration officers or
other authorities at the port of
If someone is refused entry,
"reasons must be given promptly
and in writing," except where
national security is at stake.
Those who are turned back must
have the "right to challenge"
through "an effective and acces-
sible appeal or review procedure,"
including "access to appropriate
The CCJ says that "it would
only be in exceptional situations
that entry into member states
will be denied to community
nationals." Keeping people out
because they are undesirable, or
likely to become a charge on
public funds must be the excep-
tion: "the grounds on which it is
based must be interpreted nar-
rowly and strictly." For undesir-
ables, there must be "a genuine,
present and sufficiently serious
threat affecting one of the fun-
damental interests of society."
Less than two weeks ago,
Trinidad and Tobago turned back
13 Jamaicans at Piarco. That
number in a single day is indeed
exceptional. Since 2010, around
3.5 per cent of Jamaican arrivals
have been refused entry---on
average, rather more than one a
Gary Griffith and the Prime
Minister argue forcefully that
immigration officers act within
the rules. Plenty Jamaicans think
different. The CCJ may have to
rule again before all is clear.
None of this will help Haitians
bound for the Bahamas, which
has stayed carefully outside the
Single Market and Economy.
Elsewhere in Caricom, Haiti s
standing under the Single Mar-
ket s migration regime is unoffi-
cially a "work in progress." But if
the parts slot into place,
Shanique Myrie rules would pre-
Seen from Port au Prince, even
Jamaican wages and lifestyles
look attractive. At present, there
are no direct flights. The obvious
route via Miami requires a US
visa, and a Haitian who has one
of those will not want to go to
Kingston. But change the flight
patterns, and Shanique might
find a few new friends.
If you looked at her eyes, you
would think she was already
old or homeless. The corner
of one eye is bloodshot. The other
eye has a bruised aubergine,
baigan circle that covers a
cheekbone. Her face is lopsided.
Her mouth is twisted, down-
turned. A 25-year-old-man
allegedly tied a bed sheet around
her neck to hang her. Before that,
he beat her and threatened to kill
Amanda Mootilal is an 18-year-
old girl, who got pregnant at 15.
She has a two year old. She s still
a child. The days of a school uni-
form, of choosing nail colours, of
giggling, of adolescent wonder, of
pouring over math equations are
still close. Her eyes are wounded
and deeply shocked. Somebody
she loved and trusted tried to kill
her. She got away, but only just.
He may be back is what her
eyes say, and I could be dead
and what did I do wrong? This
is an open letter to her.
Firstly, it s not your fault. You
do not deserve this. Nobody does.
Somebody threatened to kill you.
Somebody tried to hang you.
Somebody beat you up. He was
criminal. You can never provoke
brutality. Brutes exist. They may
be themselves victims---wounded,
neglected, insecure, brutalised,
humiliated, as children. They may
be psychopaths with no empathy,
or they simply may not know the
difference between right and
wrong. They may be lashing out.
It doesn t justify brutality. They
remain brutes the unhuman, the
inhumane. They are monsters of
the deep. Nobody, no matter how
close you are to them, have a
right to damage you.
The battering must have started
long before you were pinioned,
the bed sheet tied around your
neck, before the terror you felt,
before you escaped death by
hanging. I ve spoken to many
women like you, Amanda. They
are Indian, African, and European.
They are rich and poor, educated,
cultured, working illiterate, and
housewives. It s not just an Indi-
an cultural thing. There is a
Domestic Violence Act, but
women like you may be stuck
financially, or too bowed down to
leave. They don t have anywhere
to go. They may have a small
child like you do. They are afraid
if they leave they will be killed.
It s like cancer. It s arbitrary and
can get at anyone.
I ve seen too many women with
slings on their arms and bruised
eyes who have accidents. Repeat-
edly. Their eyes well up easily, too
easily at a small kindness, wob-
bling tears, wiped dry before any-
one can see.
I found some old numbers.
Between August 2 and 3 almost
10,000 women filed cases of
domestic abuse. I suspect updated
numbers may show that up to
30,000 even 40,000 women in
our country are being battered
physically, emotionally or both.
People around you tell you to
walk on eggshells. They say,
"Don t say anything to annoy
him." By saying this they make it
your problem. It s not your prob-
lem, Amanda. It s a man who is
so damaged that he crosses the
line repeatedly between being
human and being an animal.
When anyone crosses that line,
uses his physical or economic
power to damage you physically,
the argument is over. Nobody can
or should argue with a beast. He
makes himself inhuman.
For some women it starts with
a shove. Then another, harder
shove. Then you could get put
out of the car. You could get
choked. Anything could trigger it.
You get called names so often
that you forget your own name.
You look for reasons. He suggests
reasons. You put too much pepper
in the food. You didn t put
enough. Your dress was too short.
Another man paid you a comple-
ment. You came home too late.
You spent too much time at
work. You didn t work enough.
You wasted money. You ques-
tioned him in some way about
work, about a woman, about
where he was. You stayed because
of the Stockholm syndrome where
victims feel attached to their cap-
tors, see an absence of violence as
a kindness. You may also get
flowers, or money to buy a dress.
He is extra loving.
But then just when you relax,
you show some ordinary annoy-
ance, you show some kind of
independence, or if he s feeling
bad about himself that day, you
get shoved again, maybe kicked,
maybe have a sheet tied around
your neck. Maybe killed. It was
never about you.
The people around you who
enable domestic violence, Aman-
da, are among the most criminal.
The ones who witness the vio-
lence dismiss it as "cultural,"
"husband and wife business," say
you "provoked" brutality or shove
it under the carpet due to a per-
verted sense of pride. Everyone
knows that bullies are cowards.
Sometimes all it takes is a person
close to the family to say, "stop!"
For now you ve been saved.
Someone said, "stop!" The system
doesn t always work but it did for
you. It s a baby step back to
innocence, back to hope. Grab it.
Heal. Don t look back.
Victims of domestic violence
should call the 'Victim Support
Unit,' a police initiative with 24
trained social workers throughout
the country on 628-4277 extension
Open letter to Amanda...
A BABY STEP BACK TO INNOCENCE
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