If media reports are anything to go by, the response by Guyanese officials and political representatives here to the Caribbean Court of Justice October 4 ruling has been surprisingly subdued, with the Guyana Government hailing it almost three weeks after.
The CCJ decided that the rights of Jamaican visitor, Shanique Myrie, were violated when in 2011 she was refused entry into Barbados. That decision carries implications for all of CARICOM.
Though only Guyana, Belize and Barbados have signed on to the CCJ as their final court of appeal, the early October ruling shows that this court has binding jurisdiction on the other 12 CARICOM members regardless of whether they officially put pen on the dotted line.
Statistics show Guyanese have been in the forefront of Caribbean nationals suffering, what they claim is undue attention coupled with poor treatment at the main Barbados port of entry, Grantley Adams International Airport.
Between 2007 and last year 2,128 Guyanese were refused entry into Barbados. Now the CCJ judgment can lead one to believe that the reasons for putting these Guyanese on board the next available flight to their homeland were wrong. At best, the way it was done is incorrect.
Not only did the learned judges of the CCJ rule that CARICOM nationals have an automatic right of entry, with few exceptions, into sister territories, but they also made clear that refusals must be accompanied by reasons stated in writing.
Grounds for refusal are limited to persons determined to be a threat to national security, mainly stemming from a criminal past; or would-be visitors who display no acceptable means of sustaining themselves while in the territory.
Many of the 2,000-plus Guyanese sent back summarily in the past five years would argue that they posed no threat to the Land of Flying Fish, and possessed verifiable means of sustaining themselves while on the island.
Further, the CCJ has mandated that any CARICOM national refused entry into one of the 15 regional territories shall be granted rights to contact a lawyer or an acquaintance in the jurisdiction.
This removes the hitherto inhuman experience of travelers who were refused entry, sitting at the airport on the ‘Guyana Bench’ in utter desolation awaiting word from immigration officials that a plane to Guyana with an empty seat was found for them to board.
It also takes away the unpleasant experience of them turning up home unannounced to family and friend who were expecting to be contacted through a phone call from that intended traveler after laying down bags in the destination territory.
In the 2007 to 2012 period Guyanese led the region in refusals from Barbados, followed by Jamaicans in a distant second.
They are now known to lead in another sphere that stands almost diametrically opposed to the phenomenon of refusals – they are the most non-Barbadian CARICOM nationals from a single country resident in that island.
A just released population census shows Guyanese topping the ladder with 6,277 persons resident in Barbados as of 2010, out of a total 14,806 non-Barbadian CARICOM nationals in Barbados.
The second largest number of persons is 2,964, representing nationals from St Vincent and the Grenadines.
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