Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith says the administration is continuing to work on resolving issues relating to the treatment of Jamaicans who are denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago.
Several Jamaicans have complained about being mistreated by immigration officials at Trinidad’s Piarco International Airport after they have been refused entry to the country.
In a statement to the Senate on Friday (May 20), Senator Johnson Smith said the Government remains committed to protecting the rights of all Jamaicans and has been dealing with the matter at the bilateral and regional levels.
She noted that following discussions at the bilateral level, Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, Senator the Hon. Dennis Moses had assured that steps would be taken by July 2016 to improve the situation at the Piarco International Airport.
The Senator, who is also Leader of Government Business in the Senate, informed that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has already begun preparations to establish a facility at its Piarco International Airport to accommodate persons overnight, including Jamaicans, who have been denied entry into the country and are awaiting return flights to their home countries.
“The (Trinidadian Foreign) Minister, since we last spoke and wrote to each other, has indicated through the High Commissioner of Trinidad and Tobago and through the Permanent Secretary…that they have started the work. They have identified the areas (for the facility) and the plans are being worked on,” she said.
Trinidad had also promised to convene in June 2016, a customer service training workshop for airport staff, including immigration officials and other frontline employees, such as security who interact on a daily basis with passengers.
Senator Johnson Smith said she was also informed that the training courses are now being (designed) for delivery.
She noted that Trinidad’s commitment to improved conditions “have been taken as an initial positive step towards dealing with the issue of free movement which has dominated bilateral relations with Jamaica and that country over the last few years.”
The Senator pointed out however, that denial of entry is not a Jamaica issue. She said that while there is a high rate of denial to Jamaicans, with 326 being refused entry to Trinidad and Tobago during 2015, and 113 during the first quarter this year, she noted that more Guyanese have been refused entry than Jamaicans.
Meanwhile, at the regional level, Senator Johnson Smith informed that at Jamaica’s request, the item “Treatment of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Nationals Travelling in the Region” was returned to the agenda of the 42nd Session of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), which was held in April this year.
COTED promotes trade and economic development of CARICOM and oversees the operations of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
She said under the item, Jamaica called for the full implementation of the decisions taken at the 39th Session of COTED held in November 2014. Those decisions identified steps to be taken by Member States and the CARICOM Secretariat to ensure that the CSME Free Movement Regime operates in the interest of all CARICOM nationals.
It was also decided at the 42nd Session of COTED that, among other things, Member States should comply with the decisions taken at the 39th Session of the COTED, in particular that the inherent dignity of all CARICOM nationals must be respected and the basic level of treatment, in keeping with international norms and standards, must be adhered to in the event of a denial of entry into CARICOM jurisdictions.
Additionally, it was decided that the CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors should develop a protocol that would outline the steps to be taken in those instances when CARICOM nationals are denied entry into another CARICOM Member State and the assistance that can be accessed immediately before being returned to their home country.