T&T promises to treat Jamaicans better

Kamina Johnson-Smith
Kamina Johnson-Smith

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Trinidad and Tobago is to retrofit an area of its Piarco International Airport by July to improve accommodation for Jamaicans refused entry into the two-island republic.

Jamaica Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith confirmed she was informed of the decision by T&T’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator David Moses.

This follows bilateral discussions during the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) meeting.

Johnson Smith said the issue of treatment of Jamaicans denied entry at the Piarco Airport was a fairly complex one but the new development is an indication of progress.

She said that, in respect of the discussions regarding free movement of people, it has already been agreed to refer the matter to the Heads of Caricom (Caribbean Community) meeting in July.

However, she said discussions have continued at the level of the high commissioners, as well as at the ministerial level, in the meantime.

“It was always that there was no facility, so they simply used the departure lounge – which is inappropriate for an overnight stay. There were no bathroom facilities, etcetera. So, it was not a dignified setting.

”There will now be a designated area retrofitted to provide dignified and private accommodation for persons required to stay overnight, who are going to be returned,” she added.

Johnson Smith said, on the issue of the treatment of Jamaican nationals in Trinidad, Moses committed that in June his government will commence customer service training for immigration officials, as well as people such as security officials who must interact with visitors denied entry.

Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs and foreign trade, Dr. Morais Guy, noted there have been repeated calls for ‘re-culturalization’ of the two-island republic’s immigration officers in terms of how they treat nationals of other Caricom countries.

He said Jamaica was second only to Guyana in terms of bad treatment and denial of entry at Piarco, “and there is a view that Trinidad had to train their immigration officers to improve their treatment of persons from other Caricom countries.”

Relations between Jamaica and T&T have been strained for several years due to increasing complaints from Jamaicans that they have been denied entry to Port-of-Spain, despite having met all qualifications required under the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

The treaty stipulates that no Caricom national should be turned away from another Caricom state unless the traveller is considered undesirable or posing a burden on the receiving state.