Barbados says Shanique Myrie an undesirable visitor
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, (CMC) — Queen Counsel Roger Forde has defended the Barbados Government immigration policy, insisting that Caribbean Community (Caricom) nationals must first be able to pass the test to enter the island in the first place in order to be allowed to benefit from the Caricom free travel initiative.
Forde was making his final arguments yesterday before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that is hearing the case in which Jamaican national Shanique Myrie claimed that she had been discriminated against because of her nationality when she travelled to Barbados on March 14, 2011.
Myrie, 25, alleged that when she travelled to Barbados she was also subjected to a body cavity search, detained overnight in a cell and deported to Jamaica the following day.
Myrie is also alleging that she was subjected to derogatory remarks by a Barbadian immigration officer at the Grantley Adams International Airport and is asking the CCJ to determine the minimum standard of treatment applicable to Caricom citizens moving around the region.
Her lawyers have asked the CCJ, which has reserved its ruling in the matter, to order Barbados to pay substantial compensation to their client.
On September 27 last year, Jamaica was granted leave to intervene in the matter.
Forde told the court that Myrie's statement contained several inconsistencies and that there is no evidence to support her claim of discrimination.
He said several parts of the statement she gave could not be verified and on that basis alone, her entire testimony should be dismissed.
The Queen's Counsel told the court that people had a right to stay in Barbados for six months under the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services within the region, if they were able to first pass the test to enter the country in the first place.
Forde urged the CCJ, which also acts as tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional grouping, that a regional heads of government conference decision in 2007, which states Caricom nationals should be allowed into member states for six months so as to develop a feeling of belonging to the region, is not binding because it was never written into local law.
Forde argued that the conference decision, even if it is determined to be binding by the CCJ, cannot trump the ability of Barbados' border officials to thoroughly determine the desirability of any Caricom national seeking to enter the island.
He told the court that Myrie gave immigration authorities an address and telephone number of a person with whom she claimed she would be staying during her stay in Barbados, but when the host was contacted she indicated that she was allowing Myrie to use her address and phone number, but would not be responsible for her accommodation.
Forde said that, instead, a man arrived at the airport to pick up Myrie, even as Myrie claimed she did not know him.
He said this situation, coupled with Myrie's personal conduct, brought officials to deem her as an undesirable visitor.
But three of the six-panel CCJ judges disagreed that it was a fundamental issue, even as the Barbados lead lawyer maintained that the Jamaican was not telling the truth.
In her submission to the CCJ, attorney Gladys Young, who is representing Caricom, said that on entry into any Caricom country, Caribbean citizens would get an automatic six-month stay.
However, she explained that the member state can refuse entry on the basis of undesirability or in order to prevent the person from becoming a drain on the public purse.
In further explaining the term "undesirable" the attorney said that while there is no parameter in the Caricom treaty for assessing personal conduct, if it is found that there is a genuine serious and sufficient threat, then the person may be refused entry.
Myrie was initially granted permission to enter Barbados, but that clearance was cancelled less than an hour later after investigations by senior immigration officer Merlo Reid showed she had lied about who her host would be in Barbados.
"Merlo Reid did not reject Shanique Myrie because of the colour of her shoes or the colour of her hair. He did not deny her entry because she was a Jamaican. He denied her because it was discovered she was untruthful," Forde said.
The CCJ, established in 2001 to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region's final court, held sittings in Jamaica and Barbados and Myrie's attorney Michelle Brown Monday urged the judges to completely believe the entire testimony of Myrie because the woman's evidence had remained consistent and accurate throughout the process of the hearing before the CCJ.
She told the CCJ that it was one thing to refuse Myrie entry but it was another thing to detain her, and as a result she should be awarded moral and punitive damages of almost one million Barbados dollars (US$500,000).