The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has called on CARICOM to amend or interpret their immigration laws to properly facilitate the free movement of regional nations through individual member states.
The CCJ made the call last week while delivering a historic judgment at the CCJ headquarters, in Port of Spain in favor of Jamaican Shanique Myrie, who claimed she was mistreated and denied her automatic entry rights by Barbados immigration official in 2011.
Barbados was ordered to pay US$38,820 in compensation, in addition to the legal, travel and other expenses she incurred in pursuing the lawsuit.
CCJ president Sir Dennis Byron in giving the ruling said: “The court indicated that it expects Barbados to interpret and apply its domestic laws liberally so as to harmonize them with community law or, if this is not possible, to alter them.”
“As part of the 60-page landmark case, the seven judges ruled that through the action of its officials, Barbados contravened Article 45 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. They also declared that Barbados breached Myrie’s rights under a decision arising out of a CARICOM Heads of Government conference in 2007, in which regional leaders agreed that CARICOM nationals should be automatically granted six months’ entry arriving in other member states.
In defense of the claim, Barbados claimed the decision was not unanimous, because of a reservation raised by one member state and said it could only be bound by the decision if it has enacted it into its domestic laws.
Sir Dennis said the panel rejected this argument, saying there was no evidence that the decision was invalid and stated: “if binding regional decisions can be invalidated at the community level by the failure of a particular state to incorporate those decisions locally, the efficacy of the entire CARICOM regime would be jeopardized.”
The CCJ president said entry could be denied in circumstances where the national of another state is “deemed undesirable” or is likely to be a charge on public funds.
“The court held that in order for a member state to limit the right of entry of a national of another member state in the interests or public morals, national security and safety, and national health, the visiting national must present a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to affecting one of the fundamental interests in the society,” Sir Dennis said.
He said the court was of the opinion that in circumstances where a national was denied entry on a legitimate ground, the member state is required to allow the individual the opportunity to contact an attorney, his country’s consular office or a family member. In their judgment, the CCJ said after reviewing all the evidence in the case, the court was of the belief that Myrie’s case had been proven.
As a secondary issue, Myrie alleged that she was discriminated against because of her nationality, but the court rejected this argument saying she could not prove that Barbados nationals were treated more favorably than their CARICOM counterparts.
Myrie, in her lawsuit claimed when she traveled to Barbados on March 14, 2011, her passport was stamped and she was granted entry for a month. She said two hours later, she was subjected to a full cavity search by a female immigration officer and was verbally abused. She was kept in an unsanitary holding cell at the Grantley Adams International Airport, before she was eventually deported to Jamaica the day after.