Nigerian sues Jamaica for false imprisonment
Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator
A Nigerian man who was unlawfully detained by the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) at the Horizon Remand Centre, from May 21 to August 4, when the Supreme Court ordered his immediate release, has slapped the Government with a lawsuit seeking damages for false imprisonment.
Sunday Egbe, 42, is contending that when he was picked up by officers from PICA, he was told that he was being placed in custody to await a deportation order from the minister of national security.
He has filed the suit against the chief immigration officer for PICA and the attorney general.
Last week, attorney-at-law Melrose Reid applied for an order for his release on the grounds that Egbe was unlawfully detained by PICA.
Reid argued that PICA had no power to arrest or detain a Commonwealth citizen. She further argued that PICA had no power to requisition the minister of national security for the deportation of a Commonwealth citizen.
She also submitted that under the law, only a police constable can arrest or detain a Commonwealth citizen, and that citizen must be taken before a resident magistrate's court, for a determination to be made as to whether there should be a removal order.
Justice Glen Brown upheld Reid's legal arguments and granted an order for Egbe to be released into the custody of a named Nigerian living in Jamaica until PICA takes the issue to court.
Invitation of a friend
Egbe came to Jamaica on the invitation of a friend, Shamar Morris, whom he met via social media in 2008. After arriving in Jamaica in 2010, he and Morris got married on November 4, 2010. They resided at 15 Woodlawn Avenue, Kingston 20.
In court documents filed last week in the Supreme Court, Egbe said he complied with the labour laws of Jamaica and applied for and got a Work Permit Exemption Certificate from the Ministry of Labour granting him permission to work in Jamaica. He said he was gainfully employed as a security guard and attends the Caribbean Maritime Institute as a part-time student pursuing a BSc in Security Management.
On August 21, 2011, he and his wife went to PICA to have his passport endorsed with his Work Exemption Certificate and PICA took issue as to his status in Jamaica. PICA issued a letter on December 7, 2011 for him to leave the island on December, 20, 2011, with the option that he appeal to the minister within seven days.
He appealed and after a very long time, the appeal was denied.
He said as a result of the dispute with PICA, his wife abandoned him. He said he was never taken before a court on any charge and as far as he was aware, there was no order from a court in Jamaica recommending his deportation. He stated that he was hard-working and very ambitious and had never committed himself in Jamaica nor in his country.
He is contending that PICA had no power of arrest under the Immigration Restriction (Commonwealth Citizens) Act or the Deportation (Commonwealth Citizens) Act, and PICA erred in law when he was detained. He said further that PICA had no power to detain him and, in so doing, breached the law of Jamaica governing Commonwealth citizens.
Egbe said he brought the suit because he was deprived of his liberty and freedom and suffered humiliation, loss of self-esteem and self-confidence. He lost his job, he said, because of the wrongful detention for more than two months. During his detention, he claimed that he was made to live in inhumane and degrading conditions by sleeping in prison in a most degrading condition. He has described the defendants' action as malicious, spiteful, an abuse of power, oppressive, arbitrary, and unconstitutional in depriving the claimant of his freedom. He is seeking aggravated and exemplary damages and $225,000 for loss of earnings.
Carlene Larmond, director of litigation at the Attorney General's Department, told The Sunday Gleaner last week that she would be in consultation with PICA on the issue.