KINGSTON: Jamaica has issued a harsh response to comments by Trinidad & Tobago’s National Security Minister, Gary Griffith, that the influx of thousands of illegal Jamaicans into the oil-rich twin-island republic is putting a strain on its resources.
Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs Minister, A.J. Nicholson, said Griffith “does not seem to get it”, while the opposition spokesman on foreign affairs and foreign trade, Edmund Bartlett, described Griffith’s statement as “hostile and disrespectful and merits the strongest response from our government”.
Last week, Griffith in a statement supporting the actions of immigration officers to deport 13 Jamaicans last month, said the authorities cannot act as a “rubber stamp” when it comes to allowing people into the country.
“It is to be noted that at this present time, there are more than 19,000 Jamaicans in Trinidad & Tobago who have entered at legitimate ports of entry, but who have remained illegally and cannot be accounted for,” said Griffith.
He described the statistics as “alarming”, saying “that these people are dependent on State resources such as education and health care, may be employed and are not subject to taxes, which amounts to a loss of revenue of over $1 billion (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) per annum”.
Nicholson, who has been holding talks with his Trinidad & Tobago counterpart, Winston Dookeran, following a similar immigration issue just over a year ago, said “Mr. Griffith continues to concentrate on the number of Jamaicans who have been admitted into T&T, which consists of over 90 per cent of those who travel to the twin-island republic.
“We suggest that the Trinidad and Tobago security minister refrain from continuing to muddy the integration waters.”
Reacting to the incident in which the Jamaicans were deported, Nicholson said the region needs to be assured that the immigration authorities are abiding by the agreements reached between the foreign ministers of both countries.
This, he said, included the parameters established by the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice in the Shanique Myrie case concerning both the landing of CARICOM nationals and how prospective returnees are to be treated.
Last year, the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled that Myrie be awarded BDS$77,240 (one BDS dollar =US$0.50 cents) in damages after she alleged that during a trip to Barbados on March 14, 2011 she was discriminated against because of her nationality, subjected to a body cavity search, detained overnight in a cell and deported to Jamaica the following day.
In his statement, Bartlett asked how many Trinidadians without documentation are living in Jamaica.
“Certainly every Caribbean country can identify nationals from other CARICOM states whose citizens are residing without appropriate documentation within their borders. Is that reason to be rude and disrespectful to those seeking to enter?
“Of what value is the CARICOM passport we are required to carry in place of the Jamaican passport if citizens are subjected to demeaning and humiliating treatment when they arrive at the borders of member states?”
Bartlett said the matter must be treated with the utmost priority by the prime ministers of the two CARICOM countries and their foreign ministers, “as it goes to the heart of the integration movement in the region, and is a deal-breaker in any continued relations with Trinidad”.