Thu | May 23, 2019

Racial profiling?

Published:Sunday | December 22, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller embracing the Jamaican flag.

Nation of Islam leader charges that T&T is refusing Jamaicans because they are black

Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

Black activist and Muslim leader in Trinidad and Tobago, Imam David Muhammad, has accused the Kamla Persad-Bissessar government of overtly and covertly stoking the fires of racism by its refusal to accept some Jamaicans and others of African ancestry into the country.

According to Muhammad, the recent detention and repatriation of 13 Jamaicans was not singular to this country as blacks from other Caribbean islands and Africa have been refused entry in recent time.

The claim has been rubbished by Trinidad's Minister of National Security Gray Griffith, who pointed out that 96 per cent of Jamaicans, predominantly blacks, have been allowed into T&T without issues.

Griffith told The Sunday Gleaner that those who have been refused entry are the ones who failed to prove to immigration officials how they would survive during their visit to the twin-island republic.

sinister plot

But that has not convinced Muhammad, who last week claimed that the refusal of immigration officials to admit blacks was part of a sinister plot by the government to maintain the Indo-Trinidadian population as the dominant ethnic group.

"I have done a couple public lectures on this (immigration) matter. But to make a long story short, it is not Trinidad and Tobago that is in an impasse with Jamaica. It is the government of Trinidad and Tobago.

"It is not representative of the entire population, and it is specifically an Indo-Trinidadian Hindu government that does not relate to the black population," charged Muhammad.

With the population of the country being approximately 1.3 million and blacks listed at 460,000 and 'mixed' at 150,000, Indo-Trinidadians now make up the largest ethnic group and, according to Mohammad, every effort is being made to maintain this ratio.

"Dark-skinned Indians are called Indians. Light-skinned Indians are called Indians. Dark-skinned Africans are called Africans, but light-skinned Africans are called mixed.

"You have cases where there are African siblings, some dark-skinned and some light-skinned, and some are (called) Africans and some are mixed. So we are caught up in this grey area of ethnic classification," charged Muhammad.

He argued that the detention and deportation of Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals was in stark contrast to the easy acceptance of nationalities from Asia, especially China and India.

"The Indo-Caribbean in general has always been opposed to Caribbean regional integration. What is happening now with these unwritten immigration laws is a reflection of those sentiments.

"It is purely an issue of racism and Trinidadians are incensed over this matter," stated Muhammad, who is also the manager of the Trinidad and Tobago national football team and who hosts 'The Black Agenda' programme on 91.9FM radio.

"The people of Trinidad and Tobago are enraged and it's embarrassing. Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica are cultural partners. We probably listen to more reggae than you do in Jamaica. There is a love, a passion, a cultural relationship between Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica and we are very angry that that is being tampered with."

According to Muhammad, "Indians from India are never turned back, but CARICOM nationals are the largest group of individuals denied entry."

He was supported by a caller to his programme, who last week claimed that his 14-year-old Jamaican granddaughter was denied entry into the country two Saturdays ago.

The caller said he lived in Jamaica and went to Windward Road All-Age School, and was sad that his granddaughter was not allowed to enter Trinidad.

That position was endorsed by Muhammad, who argued that while Trinidad has a right to secure its borders, the unwritten immigration rules were profiling individuals who were black, and especially those from the Caribbean, to keep the Indo-Trinidadian group the largest.

But Griffith, the recently appointed national security minister, shrugged off the charge as he pointed to several black persons, including a Jamaican lawyer, in his ministry who are playing key roles in the administration at this time.