By Marcia Braveboy
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Jamaicans have taken to social media sites like Facebook, demanding answers from the Trinidad and Tobago authorities as to why 13 Jamaican nationals were denied entry into that Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country on November 19.
They are also calling for a boycott of Trinidad and Tobago’s goods and services.
However, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she is not deterred by this threat and intimated that Jamaica would not like it if Trinidad and Tobago boycotts Jamaica’s products.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
“I will wait to see that. I don’t think it is something I can comment on ad hoc. It is something we would not like to see happen… in the same way Jamaica wouldn’t like to see Trinidad and Tobago boycott Jamaican goods because we are all members of CARICOM,” asserted Persad-Bissessar, who is also the current chair of CARICOM.
The prime minister said Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago relations remain solid in spite of the boycott threat. She confirmed that she has advised foreign affairs minister Winston Dookeran to visit Jamaica on the invitation of Jamaica’s foreign affairs minister A. J. Nicholson to discuss the matter.
Dookeran said: “This issue in my view has raised a number of other issues with respect to immigration and the freedom of movement of people within the region. But there has been no inhibition, there will be none, we want to clarify this with the Jamaican authorities.”
However, Persad-Bissessar assured that the decision to send back the 13 Jamaicans was not without merit, based on information she received from the ministry of national security.
National Security Minister Gary Griffith told the media that visitors to the country who do not meet the requirements will be deported.
Information coming out of the Trinidad and Tobago’s immigration office is that there are almost 20,000 illegal Jamaicans living in the twin island republic.
The 13 Jamaicans reported to the Jamaica Observer that they were detained, made to sit on wooden benches overnight, and were then abusively bundled onto a Caribbean Airlines flight, which was carrying the Reggae Boyz football team back to Jamaica. The deportees said they were not allowed to use their cell phones or to contact anyone; a right which, according to Caribbean Community law, should be afforded CARICOM nationals.
One of the factors noted in this ongoing saga is the landmark ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which found in favour of Jamaican Shanique Myrie against Barbados for similarly unfair treatment.
In response, Persad-Bissessar said, while CARICOM sent guidelines to all Caribbean governments, she has yet to study the CCJ ruling in the Shanique Myrie matter. What she gleaned from the matter so far, she said, is that the CCJ ruling allows visiting CARICOM nationals to stay up a six-month period in another CARICOM country, but pointed out that immigration can exercise discretion in exceptional cases; such as when a person is blacklisted or can potentially become a charge on the public purse.
Persad- Bissessar said there is no blanket acceptance of any non-national entering Trinidad and Tobago.
“In other words, does he/she have somewhere to stay; does he/she have sufficient money for the length of his stay? So there is no blanket acceptance but there is a procedure that should be followed if one is refused entry,” the prime minister said.
However, the CCJ ruling stated that a CARICOM national who is denied entry into a member state should be given the opportunity to consult either with family, an attorney or a consular official. All reports indicate that this right to the immigrants was withheld by the immigration officers at Piarco airport in Trinidad.