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Jamaicans detained in Trinidad want to come home - High commissioner says Government trying its best to get them here

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2016 | 1:00 AM
David Prendergast

A Jamaican, who has spent the past six months in detention in Trinidad after being arrested for overstaying his time in the twin island republic, has charged that he and his countrymen and women are being held in inhumane conditions in the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC).

According to the Jamaican, the inmates are desperate to return home as they have been abandoned by the Jamaica authorities and are being treated like hogs by the Trinidadians.

"We have to be sleeping on the ground like is a refugee camp we deh. We can't get toilet paper, we can't get soap, they don't give us sugar or fruits or vegetable, and the food is horrible," charged the Jamaican, whose name is being withheld.

"I don't know if Jamaica has sold us to Trinidad, but them just holding us here and treating us bad, and our Government not doing anything."

He said only three or four of the Jamaican detainees at the centre have been charged with criminal offences, while the others were detained for immigration breaches and are scheduled to be deported.

"If you have somebody visit you, them have to give them money before you get the visit," claimed the Jamaican, as he added that inmates and their loved ones often comply with the demand for payment to avoid further sanctions.

"If you talk, them say you are a high-risk detainee and carry you go maximum-security prison, even though you not charged with any crime."

 

NOT ABANDONED

 

Jamaica's High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago David Prendergast has denied that the inmates have been abandoned by the Jamaican authorities and are not being visited.

According to Prendergast, his office has been in dialogue with Trinidad's government to ensure the general welfare of Jamaican inmates at the facility and have been making every effort to get them home.

"We always make visits to the detention centre. The last visit was about three weeks ago, and we have continued to make representation to the authorities here. It is something that we are on in earnest," Prendergast told our news team.

"We visit the centre almost every week. We go into the centre, and while we can't go into where they sleep, we interview them. When we went in mid-December, none of them mentioned that," said Prendergast.

He said 38 Jamaicans, including eight women, are being held at the IDC, which was opened in 2009.

"The High Commission for Jamaica in Trinidad and Tobago has made and continues to make strenuous and consistent represent-ation to the Trinidadian authorities to address the situation concerning Jamaicans detained in the IDC in Aripo.

"The High Commission has followed up on various cases and has met with senior officials in the Trinidad and Tobago Foreign Ministry, senior immi-gration officials on behalf of Jamaican nationals, including detainees in IDC, with the aim of expediting processing for return to Jamaica," added Prendergast.

 

CONTINUING DIALOGUE

 

According to Prendergast, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade in Kingston also recently held discussions with representatives of Trinidad and Tobago, including on the expedited processing of Jamaicans in detention.

"It should be noted that a large number have been detained for working without the requisite work permits, overstaying their approved time in Trinidad, which is a violation of the Trinidad and Tobago Immigration Act, or have completed their prison sentences and are awaiting processing for deportation.

"Under the law, persons can be held for overstaying or working without a permit and must undergo a special enquiry convened by a senior immigration officer, before being processed for departure," said Prendergast.

"On the last consular visit, each inmate was interviewed individually. Of note, during the visit, there were no complaints about overcrowding or lack of toiletries or that they were sleeping on the floor. In fact, as is customary, the High Commission brought supplies for the inmates, including snacks, juices and toiletries," declared Prendergast.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com