By Sukhram Ramkissoon
Trinidad major dailies trumpeted the headlines ‘Back to Africa’ and ‘11Africans Deported’ as a late-night legal battle in the courts on Dec. 6 failed to stop deportation of 15 illegal Ghanaian migrants.
According to news reports a Caribbean Airline (CAL) plane was chartered at a cost of $2.6 million to deport illegal migrants back to Ghana following a long hearing before the High Court and Court of Appeal in a bid to stop the flight by lawyers for the deportees.
CAL flight 763 departed Piarco on Dec. 7 at 7 a.m. with 15 illegal immigrants from Ghana with 12 special branch officers on board.
A few months ago Emancipation Support Committee (ESC) Chairman Khafra Kambon in a statement said the ESC thinks “it would be a real travesty of justice and an inhuman act to deport these young African men who have already been subject to unacceptable forms of punishment for immigration offences.
“We hereby call on Minister Gary Griffith in the interest of fairness, justice, compassion and nondiscrimination to set up as a matter of urgency from the Ministry of National Security, the Immigrating Department and non-state stakeholders to review the cases of the 22 detained nationals of African countries who are now threatened with imminent deportation at the very high cost of over $2.5 million TT (one TT dollar = +US$0.16 cents) to taxpayers.”
Kambon has lashed out against the manner in which 11 illegal Ghanaians were deported around 4 a.m. Describing the move as “disgusting” and one which brought this country into “serious disrepute,” Kambon said the deportation came like a thief in the night.
He demanded that someone be held accountable, charging that those from Africa were deliberately treated inhumanely.
According to sources, of the 13 persons identified to be repatriated, seven were in detention while six were released on orders of supervision and were ordered to report to immigration officials. Only four of the six reported and were detained while two others, a Ghanaian national who was recently released by a High Court judge and a Nigerian national, failed to report as ordered and are suspected to have absconded.
Commenting on the outcome of the cases, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said the “the rule of law and due process were followed.” He said particular attention must be paid to the growing problem of illegal immigration, especially given the stringent economic times and the fact of rising crime.
“Intelligence suggests that there is some link between illegal immigration problems and the rapid growth in crime,” he said.
Attorney Faris Scoon was quoted in a daily paper as saying he was ashamed to be a Trinidadian as he lamented that the move to deport illegal immigrants to Ghana was unjust and unhumanitarian.
Scoon represented some of the Ghanaians at the High Court and Court of Appeal that night in an attempt to block the chief immigration officer’s order to deport them to Ghana.
Speaking to a newspaper by phone, Scoon said the men had been living in this country for more than 10 years and have Trinidadian wives and children there.
Scoon said the way the legislation is currently drafted makes it almost impossible for a person who is not Trinidadian to have any space in this country. He said the immigration battle being fought was a political battle rather than a legal one.
He said the state should be more considerate towards applications where men who are married to women who are Trinidadian and have children who are Trinidadian so they will not be removed from the country.
He said the National Security Minister was precluding any real investigation into the circumstances of these persons and they are just deeming them a strict liability, notwithstanding that their life-ties to their family are in Trinidad.
I think that is harsh, oppressive, unjust, inhumane and unhumanitarian conduct. Quite frankly, I am ashamed to be a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago on account of what our immigration policies are,” said Scoon.
Scoon said if these immigrants come to the country and decide to start a family with Trinidadian women, that is their choice and it must be determined that these marriages are bona fide and not just send them back without proper checks.
“On Friday night, 10 police cars with machineguns and flashlights went on a manhunt for a person from Africa who is married to a Trinidadian who has three children and one on the way,” said Scoon.
“A certain official at the Immigration Department told that person go and get a DNA test for your children … imagine that,” said an upset Scoon. He added that there was “flip-flopping” with respect to actions taken by the National Security Minister, who granted an immigrant stay to that person to regularise his status and then reneged on it.
Sukhram Ramkissoon is a member of ICCRC and specializes in immigration matters at 3089 Bathurst St., Suite 219A, Toronto. Phone 416-789-5756.