Barbados, Jamaica move to avoid immigration dispute

The issue of immigration and Barbados has again raised its ugly head, with high-level delegations from Barbados and Jamaica holding second round of talks on Mar. 31 aimed at preventing a major diplomatic row over claims by a Jamaican woman that she was abused by Barbadian immigration officials early last month.

The Jamaican delegation arrived in Barbados the day before to probe Shanique Myrie’s allegation that she was subjected to a vaginal search at the Grantley Adams International Airport by an immigration officer who, she claimed, also made discriminatory remarks about Jamaicans.

The two sides were scheduled to meet at the Barbados airport to get a first-hand look at the room in which Myrie claimed the incident took place.

On Mar. 30, Barbados’ Foreign Minister Maxine McClean held initial talks with Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, Sharon Saunders, which both sides described as “frank and cordial”.

“I appreciate the candidness and the frankness with which we had deliberations,” Saunders said.

“As my government has said and your government, we want to deal with this matter through diplomatic channels. There will be a resolution to it,” she added.

“We’re doing the investigation and having the dialogue that is necessary without any sensationalism and conclusions being drawn before the truth and the actual facts are completely understood by everyone,” Saunders continued.

McClean said that the issue could be resolved at the Foreign Ministry level and that she adhered to the belief that there should be “no shouting match across the Caribbean Sea” to resolve regional issues.

“If you observe the discussions have been in the media. I have had discussions with my Jamaican counterpart, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, almost on a daily basis and that is not in the public domain. We have been dealing with this in precisely that manner,” McClean said.

Jamaica’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, Dr. Baugh told Parliament that his ministry “is aware that Miss Myrie has contacted legal services to defend her rights, vis-a-vis the Barbadian authorities.

But Parliamentary Secretary in the Barbados Prime Minister’s Office, Harry Husbands, who has responsibility for immigration, said there was no record of Myrie being searched by either immigration or customs officers and that a full statement would be issued after more investigations.

“Shanique Myrie, on arrival in Barbados, claimed she would have been staying with a female resident. But a closer investigation, however, revealed she was actually staying with a Barbadian man, who actually facilitates the entry of non-nationals into the island,” Husbands was quoted as saying in the Barbados Nation newspaper.

Meantime, former Barbados Deputy Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, has urged that the matter be taken out of the public domain.

Mottley, who also served as attorney general, said that neither Barbados nor Jamaica “can benefit from the inflaming of national passions on both sides – nor, indeed, can our economies”.

Mottley, who is now an opposition legislator, said Barbados Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart “needs to take control of the issue and put a fair, transparent and independent investigative process in place that is acceptable to all parties and agreed upon by both governments.

“In this way, all parties will be bound to the outcome of the process. The failure to put this kind of process in place has already led to the threat of an action before an International Human Rights Body,” she said.

“This will only serve to tarnish Barbados’ reputation even if, after years of hearings, the allegations are not proven,” she added.

Jamaica, at the same time, said it was planning to take the case to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Council meeting this week.

“This is something that we have discussed. It is not necessarily Barbados but in the Caribbean. It’s a very topical issue at all our meetings at COTED (Council for Trade and Economic Development), as well as COFCOR (Council on Foreign and Community Relations),” Baugh said.

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