Deported South African drug mule sent back to Guyana
- administrative bungling cited
Convicted South African drug mule Cheryll Nosia Kwitshanna was happy to be on her way home after completing her three-year prison term in Guyana last Friday.
But her happiness soon turned to despair when she was turned back at Piarco International Airport in Trinidad and sent back to Guyana, where she is currently languishing in the lock-ups at the East La Penitence Police Station.
Her current plight is a result of some administrative bungling; but who is to be blamed, remains the burning question.
Kaieteur News learnt of the woman’s case after she was returned to local police custody, and placed into the lock-ups, an undesirable situation for a foreign national who would have spent three years in the harsh Guyana penal system.
Prison authorities, referred all queries to the Central Immigration Department, which in turn pointed this newspaper to the airline responsible for Kwitshanna’s flight back to her homeland, Caribbean Airlines Limited.
It was only then that the reality facing Kwishanna and her relatives began to sink in; the 4,000 pounds/sterling that they had spent for her airline ticket is now lost, and there is no telling when the Guyana government, who is responsible for her deportation, will oblige with another fare.
But one may be asking, just what led to the South African woman’s return to Guyana?
In 2009, Kwitshanna, a South African by birth who was living in the United Kingdom, was nabbed at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri, with a quantity of narcotics.
She is one of more than 600 South African drug mules and drug traffickers languishing in foreign jails. Almost half of these are in jails in South America.
Kwitshanna was charged with trafficking in narcotics and was found guilty by Magistrate Priya Beharry, who sentenced her to three years’ imprisonment and ordered that she be deported upon completion of the sentence.
Kwitshanna’s time expired at the beginning of this year and she was subsequently released on January 3rd.
Her relatives must have been eager for her to return home, for they had her ticket ready and waiting.
Immediately upon her release, she was handed over to local immigration officials for them to effect the deportation.
Just as her family was eager to have her return home, so too were the Guyanese officials to deport her, as she was escorted to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and placed on a Caribbean Airlines flight bound for Trinidad en route to London, England, where she had arrived in Guyana from, almost four years ago.
Her troubles started when she arrived in Trinidad.
British Embassy officials there recognized that Kwitshanna, although she lived in England for a number of years, had lost her temporary residence status to return there and was therefore not permitted to enter the United Kingdom.
It was explained that she had an indefinite stay to remain in England which she forfeited, since she had been out of the UK for such an extended period, in this case more than three years.
“You hardly deport a person to a country other than their country of birth,” a source who is close to the case told this newspaper.
But didn’t the local authorities ascertain to which country Kwitshanna should be deported?
From all indications, the local agencies involved in the entire process seem to be shifting the blame.
“We release all foreign prisoners into Immigration custody,” a senior prison official told Kaieteur News.
One officer at Central Immigration referred this newspaper to the airline when contacted.
An airline official in an interview with Kaieteur News said that Immigration officials did not present any documentation that Kwithshanna was being deported.
The official explained that upon arrival in Trinidad they were informed that the woman was no longer eligible to enter England and they were advised that she should be sent to South Africa. But since she was not booked to travel to South Africa, the only other option they had was to return her to Guyana.
What about the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? Shouldn’t they have been contacted for advice on how to proceed?
This certainly was not done.
An official at that Ministry advised that both the Prison and Immigration authorities should have been putting measures in place one month prior to the deportation of a prisoner to ensure there are no hiccups whenever the time arrives for such a process to be effected.
But the blame is also being placed on Kwitshanna’s relatives who provided her ticket. It was explained that they too should have checked to ascertain if her status in England was valid for her to return there before purchasing the ticket.
For now, Cheryll Kwitshanna remains a guest of the state. But for how long? That’s a question only the government can answer.