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Nicholson: Griffith clueless on immigration concern

Published:Monday | October 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding and Daraine Luton, Senior Writers

FOR THE second time in just over a year, Gary Griffith, the national security minister for Trinidad and Tobago (T&T), has irked Jamaicans with remarks he has made about their countrymen being booted from the twin-island republic.

Griffith, in a statement supporting the recent actions of immigration officials, stressed that Jamaicans staying in Trinidad illegally continued to be a burden on the resources of that nation.

Both Foreign Affairs Minister A.J. Nicholson and his Opposition counterpart, Edmund Bartlett, are among Jamaicans who have reacted angrily to the latest comments proferred by Griffith, this time in reacting to concerns about 13 Jamaicans being turned back from Trinidad just over a week ago.

"The Trinidad and Tobago security minister, Mr Gary Griffith, does not seem to get it," said Nicholson, whose meetings with his T&T, counterpart, Winston Dookeran a year ago, have done little to silence Griffith.

The outspoken Griffith first made his views known about Jamaicans immediately after he was appointed on September 6, 2013, eliciting public outcry in Jamaica.

Yesterday, Nicholson argued that complaints made by Jamaicans who seek entry into T&T touch and concern both the reasons for denial of entry and how persons are treated.

Muddying waters

"Mr Griffith continues to concentrate on the number of Jamaicans who have been admitted into T&T, which consists of over 90 per cent of those who travel to the twin-island republic," he said.

Added Nicholson: "We suggest that the Trinidad and Tobago security minister refrain from continuing to muddy the integration waters."

Last year, after T&T sent home 13 Jamaicans, Nicholson and Dookeran met to diffuse what was threatening to escalate into a full-blown diplomatic war.

As he did on this occasion, Griffith had suggested that Jamaicans were a major burden on his country's coffers.

He charged that Jamaicans living illegally in T&T had resulted in the loss of approximately TT$1 billion.

According to Griffith, more than 19,000 Jamaicans are in the country illegally.

In response to the latest incident in which another 13 Jamaicans were turned back at the Piarco Airport in Port-of-Spain, Nicholson said the region needs to be assured that the immigration authorities are abiding by the agreements reached between the foreign ministers of both countries.

This, he said, included the parameters established by the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice in the Shanique Myrie case concerning both the landing of CARICOM nationals and how prospective returnees are to be treated.

"The Trinidad and Tobago foreign minister has advised that he is to receive a written report relating to how the recent complaining 13 were treated at Piarco, pending their return to Jamaica," said Nicholson.

Bartlett is also peeved. He characterised Griffith as "rude and unacceptable" when he spoke of about 19,000 undocumented Jamaicans in his country costing his taxpayers.

"That cannot be the way that we respond when there is a matter of any concern by a member state in relation to its nationals," said Bartlett. "We are all party to the Treaty of Chaguaramus, which has enshrined in it freedom of travel."

Bartlett stressed that it must be remembered that both countries are also parties to a single CARICOM passport arrangement which has, at its core, respect and dignity to be accorded to every person who travels.

He argued that whenever there are infractions of the rules, member states should act accordingly to deal with the breach.

Bartlett said Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Nicholson should take the matter very seriously.

"A very strong position must be taken at the heads (of government conference)," he asserted.

"There is need to reinforce the importance of the Treaty of Chaguaramas and the spirit of it in relation to freedom of movement. If Jamaica cannot have dignity given to its nationals who travel in the region, then there is a case for us to seriously consider whether this integration movement has outdone its time."