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Barbadians tighten the screws - More Jamaicans beaten, locked up, kicked out

BY KARYL WALKER Online news editor walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, March 31, 2011    

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IGNORING the gathering storm of accusations about their poor treatment of visitors, Barbadian authorities have again allegedly beaten and kicked three more Jamaicans out of that eastern Caribbean island.

The three, Andre Davis, Jermaine Blake and Chevine Edwards — partners in the artiste management and music production company, Dajavu Records — said they were physically abused and threatened by Barbadian police and humiliated by that country's immigration officers after being denied entry.

Edwards told the Observer yesterday that the trio arrived in Bridgetown on Sunday, March 20, 2011 on Caribbean Airlines flight BW55 minutes after 9:00 pm. He said they were removed from the immigration line and their passports and cellular phones were confiscated. They were interviewed individually and proved that they had met all the requirements, in terms of accommodation, business contact, cash and length of stay limits, said Edwards.

"There was a cop who asked us if is we supply Buju Banton with coke. He also asked us if we didn't bring any Bob Marley. I asked what he was talking about as I thought he meant a CD (compact disc), but he said he was talking about ganja. And he asked us if we used drug money to fund our label," he said.

And the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of Jamaica yesterday added its voice to the howls of condemnation of the alleged acts of discrimination against Jamaicans by Barbados.

In a release to the media, the association said its members faced less than acceptable treatment from Barbadian customs officials when they visited that country for a meeting of the Caribbean Customs Brokers Association in 2009.

The association complained that customs officers rummaged through the luggage of a female member of the delegation unnecessarily, and complained that staff at the hotel where the event was being held were less than satisfactory and ended in them complaining to the hotel's management.

"A female member of our executive has also complained about the naughty and condescending behaviour of customs and immigration officials, to which she was subjected on a business visit to Barbados. The complaints by Jamaican nationals are not new and the apparent escalation demands action from the Jamaican Government to protect our nationals from the reported snobbishness and rudeness from our supposedly Caricom (Caribbean Community) neighbours, despite the expected denials," the release said.

The claim of abuse by the music producers comes just days after Shanique Myrie, a Jamaican national, accused Barbadian officials of finger-raping her twice, spewing venom about Jamaicans and forcing her to endure humiliation. Myrie, along with another Jamaican national Rickrisha Rowe, were also locked up in a cold room before being booted out of the country on the next available flight.

Myrie has since employed the services of attorney Anthony Hylton who expressed confidence that he would secure justice for his client.

"We will prevail, our options are open. We haven't decided on anything yet, but to bring justice to our client," Hylton told the Observer.

Recounting the ordeal experienced by the trio, Edwards said they had gone to the eastern Caribbean island to promote Defranco, a fledging entertainer, and to seal a booking date for reggae artiste Junior Reid, who was negotiating to perform at the upcoming Reggae on the Hill concert to be held in that Caribbean island.

But Edwards said their plans to promote Jamaica's popular culture were dashed by the callous treatment meted out to them by the Barbadians.

He said after sitting in the waiting area for some time, their luggage was brought to them by customs officials who searched and found only promotional CDs.

"They said they didn't want our music in their country as they already have their own music," Edwards added.

Some time later, he said, an immigration officer approached them with their passports and informed them that they were denied entry. He also claimed that their request for a telephone call was rejected and they were ordered into a small room by police officers, who had removed their identification cards.

One of the police officers, said Edwards, reached for his baton and slammed Blake into the wall, while another cop punched Davis "and threatened us with physical violence if we did not go into a cell. Blake was sitting on the ground and a cop grabbed him and punched and kicked him," Edwards said.

The men were then placed into what they describe as filthy cells without an explanation as to why they were being treated like criminals.

Edwards said their ordeal did not end there as about six police officers returned and demanded that Davis, who had taken a picture of an offending immigration officer, delete the image or suffer further physical abuse and destruction of his camera.

He described the room in which he was placed as uninhabitable.

"The place was rank with urine and faeces, a bathroom in there was nasty and insects were crawling all over. You could see where people used the bathroom and stuck toilet paper on the walls and ceiling. It was a very horrible experience," he said.

In addition, Edwards alleged that the Barbadian authorities deliberately lowered the temperature on the air conditioning unit that serviced the small room.

"We were locked up for about 12 hours in freezing cold. We got no food, no water and nobody came to check on us," said Edwards who, along with his colleagues, was sent home the next morning.

According to Davis, he felt humiliated and dehumanised by the experience.

"We spent over US$5,000 to go to jail (Barbados). Up to now they have not given us a reason why we were denied entry," said Davis, who complained that they were only given back their belongings as they were about to board an aircraft.

The men have since filed a formal complaint with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and have secured the services of attorneys Santia Bradshaw, who is based in Barbados and Jamaican attorney Aloun Assamba, former tourism minister.

The Jamaican Government is currently pursuing talks with Barbados aimed at finding a solution to the issue which has strained relations between Kingston and Bridgetown.

Yesterday, Barbadian Opposition leader, Mia Mottley, chided her countrymen for "burying their heads in the sand".

"As Barbadians we can no longer bury our heads in the sand to the perception that others have of us that Barbados does not treat its Caribbean brothers and sisters and people of African descent fairly and with respect.

"I do not have all of the facts, but if this is the perception of us, we need to deal with it. If not, our social and economic well-being as a people will be affected, as we warned when government's immigration policy was introduced two years ago. If we are being wrongly accused in the region, then we must correct that perception," Mottley said in a statement to the media.

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