17,000 illegal Jamaicans in Trinidad & Tobago

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Some 13 Jamaicans were turned away from Trinidad recently.
Some 13 Jamaicans were turned away from Trinidad recently.

[www.inewsguyana.com] – Amid reports of growing anger and threats of boycotting TT goods in Jamaica, after 12 nationals of that country were last week barred from entering Trinidad, comes startling revelations from the National Security Minister that close to 17,000 Jamaican nationals are staying illegally in Trinidad and Tobago as their entry certificates have expired.

Documents sent to Newsday from the Office of the Chief Immigration Officer Keith Sampson revealed that for this year, as of November 21, 16,958 Jamaicans are staying illegally in this country.

National Security Minister Gary Griffith last night told Newsday if these undocumented and unregistered Jamaicans are working to maintain themselves, this means they are depriving the state of an estimated $700 million in taxes annually.

According to information from the Ministry of National Security, 81 Jamaicans remain in detention at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) in Aripo while to date, for this year, 66 Jamaicans have been repatriated.

The argument that Jamaicans were being denied entry into this country, Griffith said, is patently false given the high numbers admitted over the past four years and the refusal rate being under five percent annually.

“To date 96 percent of Jamaicans have been allowed free entry into this country and if they want a 100 percent entry rate, it means there will be no need for scrutiny by immigration officers,” Griffith said. Reports from out of Jamaica are that TT Immigration Division refused Jamaica nationals entry into TT, in breach of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which allows for free movement of CARICOM nationals among CARICOM Member States.

The claims are being made against the background of 12 Jamaicans being denied entry on November 19. “The suggestion that Jamaicans are being targetted by TT officials is without basis,” a senior official at the Immigration Department told Newsday.

According to statistics from the National Security Ministry, from 2010 to the present, the Immigration Division report on the number of Jamaicans granted and refused entry noted as being 13,534 (96 percent) Jamaicans were admitted and 594 (or four percent) being refused entry.

In 2010, 10,993 Jamaicans were allowed into TT while 371 were refused (a 3.3 percent refusal rate); in 2011, 13,964 were allowed entry while 597 were denied entry (a 4.1 percent refusal rate); in 2012, 15,871 were admitted while 400 were refused entry (a 2.6 percent refusal rate) and for this year, 13,534 Jamaicans have been allowed into this country as opposed to 594 being denied entry — a 4.2 percent refusal rate.

Efforts to contact Jamaica’s High Commissioner Paula Saunders yesterday at the Jamaican High Commission in Port-of-Spain were futile and calls were not returned.

According to Immigration Division sources the 12 Jamaicans denied entry on November 19 were denied for reasons such as no host (person they will stay with while in TT), no funds, relatives living illegally in TT and previous overstaying illegally in TT.

Immigration sources have complained of the department being short staffed and its Investigations Unit being, “overwhelmed by the number of reports of illegal immigrants received daily.” Griffith told Newsday that the immigration officers have, “separate and legitimate reasons why each of the 12 Jamaicans were sent home” on November 19.

Expressing concern about the number of illegal persons living in TT, Griffith said, “We don’t know if they have turned to a life of crime, if they are begging for money on the streets, or if they have become dependent on the State’s social services.”

Meanwhile, Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs AJ Nicholson has asked TT’s Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran to visit Jamaica to discuss the situation even as several groups in Jamaica have threatened to boycott the purchase of goods imported from Trinidad. TT’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is the current head of Caricom.

Anthony Hylton, Jamaicas’ Minister of Industry, Investments and Commerce said while Jamaicans boycotting Trini goods is not the way that country’s Government wants to express its concern over the issue, he said this is a reflection of the outrage being felt by Jamaicans on their country being sent back home.

“We recognise that we have a population that is very incensed by what has happened. I think both governments need to act and act very quickly to deal with a matter that could well go beyond government control,” Hylton said. [Trinidad News Day]

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