Thu | Jul 19, 2018

Jamaican immigration 'dissed' my Nigerian mother-in-law

Published:Saturday | October 11, 2014 | 12:00 AM


I often read in the dailies how Jamaicans complain about the unfair treatment they receive at the hands of immigration officials in fellow Caribbean countries, especially Barbados and Trinidad.

Well, I regret to inform you that your own Jamaican immigration officials are no better, and are, in many instances, guilty of the same rash behaviour, so it may simply be payback or even karma at work here.

I am a Nigerian living here, and I strongly believe that the officials of the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency are profiling Nigerian travellers to Jamaica for reasons which I find difficult to understand. The Nigerian community here in Jamaica has noted this and made a formal report about it to our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and, of course, it was reported to President Goodluck Jonathan himself during his visit to the island last year.

I was served a dose of the PICA officials' rashness when I invited my ageing mother-in-law, a retiree, to the island sometime in July 2014. This trip was to be fully sponsored by me and, of course, the high commission in Abuja, Nigeria, was duly informed and granted her a visa. She would be meeting her now almost three-year-old first grandchild for the very first time, and was full of excitement. She was to be staying with my family for a period of about nine to 10 weeks, and was in possession of a return ticket.

Waiting at airport

I was at the airport in Montego Bay to pick her up, and when I did not see her exit after a few hours, I called her roaming cell phone only for her to tell me in tears that the PICA officers had informed her she was being put back on the 17-hour flight back to Nigeria immediately, without giving her any reasons why they were doing so.

She had been interviewed and had even informed them I was outside the airport waiting to pick her up. At once, I called the immigration desk at Sangster Airport and introduced myself as the sponsor of her trip. I was informed by a supervisor on duty that the decision to deny her landing was made from the high commission in Abuja, from which she had obtained the visa.

I assumed the visa may have been revoked, and pleaded with them to hold her in the airport till I could confirm the next day, but was rebuffed. Because of the time difference, I could not obtain confirmation by phone from the Abuja office, but I later confirmed the next morning that the information passed on to me by the supervisor was actually not true.

My mother-in-law would later tell me she was tongue-lashed and dragged back to the departure lounge, dragged to the plane, and handed to the airline staff for another gruelling two-day trip to Lagos, Nigeria.

At this point, I was desperate for answers, as I felt guilty for putting an old lady through such a disgraceful and humiliating experience, so I contacted the Montego Bay PICA office by phone and drove down to the office in Kingston in search of answers.

I was informed that my dear mother-in-law may have been denied landing in error - no further details - and was advised to petition the chief immigration officer, which I have done. All this was in July 2014, and as I write this on October 6, I have not received a response.

While it may be argued that it is the prerogative of any country to determine which foreigners are granted landing and which ones are denied, I am sure we can all agree that this is shoddy service.