By Devon Dick
Shanique Myrie, a Jamaican woman of humble background, sued the Barbados government and apparently won several rights for all CARICOM citizens. She spoke up for equal rights and justice. It was financially costly and time consuming. Myrie's attitude and actions can be considered heroic.
Myrie was subjected to a painful and humiliating body-cavity search in unsanitary conditions in the Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados in 2011. The six-member panel of judges noted a 2007 decision of the CARICOM heads of government to allow member states to limit the free movement of persons considered "undesirables" or likely to become "a charge on the public purse", but made it clear that this entitlement must be construed as an exception to the right of entry.
The concept of undesirability must be concerned with the protection of public morals, the maintenance of public order and safety, and the protection of life and health. This ruling will allow for the free movement of CARICOM nationals within the region and, hopefully, better treatment.
Myrie was profiled. She believed it could be because she shares a similar surname as Buju Banton, and so was perceived as being involved with drugs. Furthermore, other innuendoes have been made about Myrie - even by fellow Jamaicans. But Myrie kept her dignity and kept up the fight.
Equally important was her graciousness in victory as well as her clarity of thought. Myrie, with no bitterness in her heart, said she will not return to Barbados, but she will not tell people not to go to Barbados because she claims that the people of Barbados are good people, but it is the immigration officers who need to change their behaviour.
Myrie has done what many lacked the courage to do. Many persons have been profiled and subjected to humiliating searches at airports and we murmur but do nothing.
Last month, I was subjected to a crass and humiliating search in the Cayman Islands. I asked the security officer if I needed to take off my belt and shoes and he said, "No". Then I proceeded through the machine, the alarm sounded and there began my nightmare. I cringed at the manner in which the security officer patted me down so much so that he asked if I was sick.
They did not have an electronic equipment to frisk me. It was awful. I will spare you the details of the more-than-intrusive search. There can be a better way. I should have been asked to take off my belt and shoes and go through the machine again. Then if there were a sound, they could frisk me with an electronic device.
I had no problem anywhere else on my journey except in the Caymans, where I was only an in-transit passenger. These security persons should not be patting people without reasonable suspicion. Some heroine like Shanique Myrie needs to test these procedures in court. I felt it would have been a waste of time to write of my ordeal to the airport authority although the gracious Cayman immigration officer encouraged me to do so.
This is a not a Cayman problem only. One of the most humiliating searches I have had was in Jamaica by security personnel at Norman Manley International Airport, when a female security officer took me into a room.
The added insult is that, whenever these searches happen, I am travelling with either my wife or my children and they do not get searched. By the way, whenever I travel first class I seem to avoid those searches. Is it only when I travel economy class I become a suspect?
Brave Shanique Myrie will make us get better treatment when we travel.
Devon M. Dick, PhD, is pastor of Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew and author of 'Rebellion to Riot: The Jamaican Church in Nation Building', and 'The Cross and the Machete'. Send comments to email@example.com.