Angry about a growing number of Jamaicans being refused entry into some Caribbean islands, Trinidad in particular, several groups and prominent individuals in Jamaica are fighting back by organizing mass boycotts of products from the twin-island republic using traditional and social media to whip up support for their effort.
The move follows publication of statistics that show that more than 1,000 Jamaicans have been denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago in the past three years. National Security Adviser Gary Griffith said Tuesday that an average of two are turned away per flight because they do not normally satisfy immigration requirements or lie on forms including a group of 13 which received similar treatment earlier this year.
Buoyed by an embarrassing defeat of the Barbados government in the Shanique Myrie case at the hands of the umbrella Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Jamaicans say the time has come to fight back against stereotyping of Jamaican travelers as too many immigration and customs officers at various Caribbean ports profile Jamaican passengers as either male or female drug mules or women heading into the prostitution business.
Myrie had taken the Barbados government to the CCJ for the humiliating treatment she had received at the Grantley Adams International Airport when she was stripped and finger searched, thrown in a filthy cell and put on the next plane back home because authorities there thought she was headed for the ladies of the night business or had come to rob Barbadian women of a possible spouse by marrying a local and remaining on the island. The CCJ handed defeat to Barbados and punitive damages to Myrie, triggering a region-wide rethink of the right of free travel within the Caribbean trade bloc of nations.
Single women from several Caribbean trade bloc countries including Guyana, have complained about similar treatment at the hands of Barbadian and Trinidadian airport officials but the latest spat between Jamaica and Trinidad has attracted support from a wide cross sections of Jamaicans who say that enough is enough.
Karl Samuda, a former Jamaican government minister and shadow legislator on Industry and Commerce threw his support behind the campaign this week by saying that the entry refusals” makes a mockery of the spirit of the Treaty of Chaguaramas and the Trinidadians must be roundly chastized for the attitude that they have adopted with respect to Jamaica and Jamaicans in particular.”
He argued that nothing will change until a campaign to boycott products from Trinidad begins to bite, noting that “we should not have a situation where a country’s producers are benefiting tremendously from our markets and, at the same time, breaching the provisions of the Treaty of Chaguaramas with respect to the free movement of Jamaicans throughout the region.”
Jamaican school teacher Kesreen Green Dillon whose campaign is picking up steam and even attracting comment from the private sector umbrella organization, says that “I am tired of seeing Trinidad and Barbados treat other member states, especially Jamaica, like second-rate citizens. The patty war is fresh in my mind and the number of Jamaicans turned back from their shores annually,” she said, referring to a recent trade war over restrictions of Jamaican patties into the Trinidad market.
This is even as Attorney General A.J Nicholson warned that any such move would be counter-productive to good relations but it appears at few Jamaicans are listening in the wake of the recent CCJ ruling.