BY KARYL WALKER Associate Editor — Crime/court desk email@example.com
FIGURES released into evidence in the case involving Jamaican Shanique Myrie versus the Government of Barbados by attorneys representing the Jamaican Government at the just-concluded sitting of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in Kingston show that 266 Jamaicans were refused entry into Barbados in 2011.
That was the same year that Myrie, who claims to have been subjected to abusive and discriminatory treatment in the form of a vaginal search and verbal abuse, was detained and deported from that country.
Myrie is claiming damages and an apology from the Barbadian state for discrimination on the grounds of her nationality in a landmark case before the CCJ, with witnesses being questioned last week at the Jamaica Conference Centre.
Her attorneys say the figures suggest that Jamaicans, more than any other Caricom nation, have been discriminated against by Barbados border control in recent years.
Myrie's story, which first broke in the Jamaica Observer in March 2011, threatened to sour relations between both Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries and caused the Jamaican government to send a diplomatic delegation to Barbados.
The figures were requested from the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) by the Attorney General's Office, who is acting on behalf of the Jamaican government, which sought and was granted permission to act as intervener in the matter.
The data show that a total of 1,485 Jamaicans who have landed at the Grantley Adams Airport were refused entry into the eastern Caribbean island between 2007 and 2012.
The Attorney General is arguing that Jamaicans are summarily refused entry into Barbados because of their nationality and accuses Barbados of breaching the dictates of the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
A section of the treaty allows for:
Lead attorney for the Jamaican Government Dr Kathy-Ann Brown, who will argue the case when the court reconvenes in Bridgetown, Barbados, on March 18, last week contended that Jamaicans have been subject to unfair treatment at the hands of Barbadian Airport Officials.
"The statistical evidence submitted by both Jamaica and Barbados demonstrate a persistent and relatively constant disparity, over a period of five years from 2007, in the denial of entry of Jamaican nationals, compared with nationals of almost all other Caricom countries," Brown said.
"Where statistical data demonstrates a pattern of differential and prejudicial treatment of a category of persons, here, Jamaican nationals, this places a significant burden of proof on a defendant to provide an explanation.
If there is no satisfactory explanation, it is legitimate to infer that the less favourable treatment was on grounds of nationality," she added.
Another document with figures provided by Caricom that was entered into evidence revealed that more Jamaicans and Guyanese are refused entry to Barbados than any other Caricom nationals.
According to the Caricom figures, 404 Jamaicans were refused entry in 2008, a significant increase over the previous year when 123 Jamaicans were turned back. In 2009, a total of 218 Jamaicans were sent home, while 229 were refused entry the following year.
In the two years that followed, a total of 511Jamaicans were refused entry, the document revealed.
During last week's historic sitting, evidence was offered by a number of Jamaicans including; Myrie, Avia James, Odiesha Brown, John Wilson, Chevine Edwards, and Julian Jackson, who all claimed they were discriminated against and were subjected to unfair treatment.
All were drilled by lead attorney for the Barbadian Government Roger Forde, who attempted at every turn, to discredit claims that Jamaicans were treated unfairly.
Wilson claimed he was accused of trafficking drugs into the eastern Caribbean island and taken to a medical centre and forced to undergo an X-ray examination.
Like Myrie, James and Brown both testified to being accused of going to Barbados to traffic drugs and 'steal' men.
James also claimed that a Barbadian official ordered her to strip so he could search for cocaine, but she refused to yield.
"The woman said all Jamaicans do is come and mash up their lives and take away their man," James told the Jamaica Observer in October last year.
But her ordeal did not end there, she said.
"He took my purse and removed everything from it. I had US$250 and J$200 in the purse. When he gave it back to me, my money and my debit card were gone. I demanded my money back and he said: "You s..t! You think I want your (expletive) $250? You Jamaicans are s..t!" James alleged.
She claimed the cop threw the Jamaican bank notes on the ground and told her, "I hate you Jamaicans. Don't leave your crosses money in our airport".
However, lead attorney for the Barbadian Government, Roger Forde, argued that there is no basis for claims that Jamaicans are turned back from Barbados for reasons other than legal ones.
To prove his point, Forde spoke to three persons on the list of those refused entry. All three had been turned away from Barbados because of fraudulent documents, or being previously deported.
He cited the cases of Lovena Thomas who was refused entry after it was discovered that she tendered false documents in the form of a fraudulent Antiguan stamp; Dawn Williams, who is accused of overstaying the time granted her by immigration officials, and Nicholas Gordon who was also found to be travelling on fraudulent documents.
"If a person is turned around and the reason is fraud, is that in relation to nationality?" Forde asked deputy director of PICA Ephium Allen during last week's sitting.
'The data cannot show that the reason is nationality, so there is no reason to support the argument that refusal is due to nationality. It does not hold," he asserted.
Forde also argued before the court that, because the Jamaican numbers did not include the number of Jamaicans who were admitted entry into Barbados, nor those who were refused entry into other Caricom states, no real comparison could be made.
Allen was asked by the attorneys appearing on behalf of the Jamacan Government to give evidence.
He testified that Jamaican immigration officials only refuse entry to Caricom nationals as a last resort.
All the Jamaicans who have complained of being unfairly treated in Barbados claimed they were locked up before being sent back to Jamaica on the earliest possible flight.
But, Allen declared Caricom nationals who were refused entry to Jamaica were not treated like criminals.
"All reasonable avenues are pursued before a decision is made. If refusals occur, it is a practice to allow them to make phone calls or use the Internet to send a message. Being refused entry is different from being arrested. A return ticket is also provided," Allen told the court.
He also said Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua, and Bahamas have been refusing entry to a number of Jamaicans who attempt to set foot on their shores.