KINGSTON, Jamaica – In an impassioned speech to the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court earlier today, the attorney-at-law representing the family of former Haitian Senator Joseph Joel John, expressed his displeasure at the Government’s handling of their application for refugee status, resulting in the eventual deportation of his clients to their country of origin.
John’s wife, Edume, 38, and her two sons applied for asylum in Jamaica through the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA). The application was subsequently denied and an appeal was made.
Moments before he addressed the court regarding PICA’s denial of the refugee status, the family pleaded guilty to illegal entry into Jamaica and their attorney, Donahue Martin, requested that the court admonish and discharge them, causing the family to be sent back to Haiti.
“Your Honour, I do have instructions today to have this matter removed from the court list… might I invite Your Honour to admonish and discharge the offenders. The reason for my application, Your Honour, is that the offenders entered the island quite literally with clothes on their backs as a result of issues in their place of origin. They had applied to our Government to be considered refugees,” Martin said, noting that he believes if his clients don’t represent the definition of refugee status, then no one can do the same.
“So practically speaking, You Honour, it is quite problematic for the persons to remain in custody in not the best of conditions, and this is in the context of what I consider to be well founded concerns concerning their safety as well,” he continued.
Adding that he is calling on the Government to “review their protocols” concerning persons who are applying for asylum status, Martin stated, “Because this certainly is not the best example of how it is we should honour our international obligations. I do believe we can do better as a people because at any point the shoe can be on our foot where it is that we might have some instances where us as citizens need the help of our neighbours, and we certainly wouldn’t want to be treated like this.”
John has since been extradited to the United States, as he is accused of conspiring to commit a murder or kidnapping following the July 7 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. John is the third person slated to be tried in Miami in the case of Moïse.
The family was held by police in Jamaica on January 14 during an operation in Warminster district, St Elizabeth.
– Candice Haughton