Jamaican woman cites shoddy treatment by Barbadian officials at airport

Another sad story

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT Staff reporter hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 28, 2016

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THERE is yet another negative report pointed at Barbados’ immigration officers at the Grantley Adams International Airport.

Sonya King recounted what she describes as a horrific ordeal endured by herself and her 14-month-old son Kaleb Joseph Saturday night leading into early Sunday morning, when they sought entry into the country.

When King, a Jamaican, contacted the Jamaica Observer she explained that she has lived in Trinidad & Tobago for the past four years, but decided that she wanted to visit Barbados along with her son, for the experience.

"I always hear people talk bad about Barbados immigration system but we have a saying in Jamaica that ‘puss and dog don’t have the same luck’, so I put the negative behind me and pursued the trip," King related to the Observer in an interview.

"I flew from Trinidad to Barbados and when I got to the airport (Saturday night) I could feel the hostility before I even stepped up to immigration. I went up to the immigration officer and explained my purpose for visiting and having my baby with me. The very moment the immigration officer heard my accent and viewed my passport, my situation changed for the worst," she said.

"The officer stamped ‘denied entry’ in my book and he went further by saying that I’m going back on a Caribbean Airlines plane as soon as one is available and they will also call the authorities in Trinidad to deport me to Jamaica. When I asked what was the issue they said I should not have come there, I should have returned to Jamaica first. They asked for my marriage certificate, I showed them and they asked to see a return ticket and my sister sent it through WhatsApp and I showed them," King went on.

But, according to King the real nightmare began when she was refused water to make tea for her baby and her suitcases were taken from her and her son and herself were "forced to sleep on the ground on a dirty mattress and sheet which was covered in hair.

"By this time it was about 3:00 am (Sunday morning) we still had nowhere to sleep and the baby was getting fussy. A kettle and a microwave was in full sight of me and I asked them for some warm water to make some tea for the baby and they said they can’t help me. The officer that was there asked if I had money and said I should put money into the vending machine and give the baby a juice.

"The baby’s diapers were soaked and the diapers in my handbag were already used up and they wouldn’t allow me to get my luggage to change him. Eventually we were forced to sleep on the ground on a dirty mattress and sheet which was covered in hair. My baby is asthmatic and he started coughing because he was cold. I felt like a animal, lower than dirt," King said.

Moreover, she said when the flight back to Trinidad came and she was escorted by a security officer to the plane, a change of fate occurred, as the immigration officer informed the security to take her back to the immigration desk, where her no ‘entry stamp’ was cancelled and she was granted two days stay in Barbados.

But, despite being eventually being granted access to Barbados, King said she is calling on the foreign affairs ministers of both countries to intervene, as what she described as the inhumane behaviour towards Jamaicans by the Caribbean Community (Caricom) family was "unacceptable" and needed immediate attention.

There was no immediate response from Barbados Immigration.

Jamaicans and Guyanese nationals have, for years, complained that they have been singled out for harsh treatment whenever they arrive in Barbados.

King’s story comes three years after Shanique Myrie was awarded BD$77, 240 (US $38,620) in pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages, after she took her case to the Caribbean Court of Justice to seek redress.

Myrie accused a female immigration officer in Barbados of finger-raping her at the Grantley Adams Airport before she was locked up in a room overnight and sent back to Jamaica the following day.

The court found that Myrie had been wrongfully denied entry into Barbados, subjected to a humiliating cavity search and unlawfully detained overnight before being expelled from the country the following day.

Others such as Avia James have also complained of bad treatment by immigration officials in that country.

Under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and a 2007 Caricom decision, Caricom nationals are entitled to enter Caricom member states, "without harassment or the imposition of impediment, and to stay for up to six months."


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