Trinidad cock-up - Former security minister says immigration issue involving Jamaicans badly handled

Published: Thursday | December 26, 2013 Comments 0
Austin 'Jack' Warner
Austin 'Jack' Warner

 Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

Trinidadian government officials are facing more criticisms at home over the recent decision by immigration officers to refuse entry to 13 Jamaicans.

This time, the criticism has come from Austin 'Jack' Warner, the controversial former national security minister in the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration.

According to Warner, the decision to turn back the Jamaicans would not have happened if he was still the minister in charge of immigration.

"I felt that it was inhumane ... I offered ministerial grace so they could stay and get their papers," said Warner.

He rejected suggestions that some persons might have been refused entry because they had criminal records.

"There is no database at Piarco International Airport that tells you when you land what charges you have."

He declared that during his short tenure as national security minister he made it his business to facilitate regional immigration.

"I made it my business not to be hard on individuals coming and staying here because we may have some degree of good fortune now, but Trinidadians are rushing to Canada, United States and England and looking for greener pastures.

"In the same way we expect them to take us, and they remit money back home to take care of their families, it's the same thing happening here," Warner told The Gleaner.

"I went to pains to make it legal for people to be accepted here. When I was minister, I never gave anybody any instructions to deport anybody. I never did that. Moreover, the detention centre up at Aripo is overcrowded with black people.

"One, they are black Caribbean peoples and two, they were Jamaicans and Guyanese in the main," charged Warner.

However, the outspoken former minister said the entire immigration impasse was being blown out of proportion and has been badly handled.

"The Jamaica Manufacturers' Association has piggy-backed on the immigration issue for their own purpose. But I put it to you that they have no concern about Jamaicans being deported and I tell you that in Trinidad and Tobago the concern is almost minimal, in terms of this (deportation) issue."

Warner argued that instead of Trinidad's foreign affairs minister, Winston Dookeran, travelling to Jamaica for talks following the incident, it should have been the Jamaican minister of foreign affairs, A.J. Nicholson, travelling to Port of Spain for talks with Gary Griffith, the minister of national security and minister of trade.

"That being said ... I do agree that the minister of national security's outburst and petulance was not called for. If he had a problem, he could have discussed it with his minister of foreign affairs. But the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing and nobody is talking to each other, obviously," said Warner.

"Dookeran saying one thing; Gary Griffith saying another thing, and the prime minister coming in and saying nothing. What she has said amounted to both of them being right. Foolishness. At the end of the day, somebody has to take the bull by the horns and take a stand," Warner charged.


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