NEW YORK: A U.S.-based Caribbean group has condemned the December 7 deportation of 70 African nationals by immigration authorities in Trinidad & Tobago, saying that the twin-island republic’s immigration policy is “harmful to CARICOM” (the Caribbean Community).
The Brooklyn, New York-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) said last week that the action by the incumbent People’s Partnership Government of Trinidad & Tobago has drawn accusations of racism.
“The optics and reality of the mostly Indian-based administration of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar deporting a large group of Black people are horrible, and have fueled the criticism,” said the group.
The coalition government has denied suggestions of racial and religious discrimination in the deportation of African nationals, saying that Trinidad & Tobago has deported more Guyanese citizens than any other citizen of any country.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan told the Senate that it was “mischievous, malicious and very dangerous” for allegations to be made that the government was engaged in racial profiling in the deportation of illegal immigrants.
He told legislators that statistics from 2010 to October 2014 showed that “the number one country with deportees from Trinidad & Tobago is not the African continent, not India, but Guyana”.
However, CGID said Ramgolan has established a pattern of discrimination against Guyanese.
“He strategically stopped short of disclosing the race of the persons repatriated to Guyana; may be for good reason,” the group said. “This insular posture must be condemned. Trinidad & Tobago cannot aspire to benefit from CARICOM’s free movement of skills, people and capital, within the framework of the CSME (Caribbean Single Market and Economy), while it deliberately discriminates against targeted CARICOM nationals; namely Guyanese, Jamaicans and others.”
The group condemned Trinidad & Tobago’s immigration policies.
“Clearly, T&T’s contentious immigration policy has fractured regional unity,” it said. “The Persad-Bissessar administration’s protectionism has no place in a region where altruistic policies are crucial for unity and progress.”
CGID urged the Trinidad & Tobago administration to “reform its discriminatory immigration policy or leave CARICOM if it wants to continue down this path”.
The government has defended its decision to spend TT$2.6 million (one TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) to charter a plane to deport 15 illegal Ghana nationals on December 7, saying that it was difficult to get visas for the men to travel back to their country through commercial flights.