A plan to fingerprint air and sea passengers entering Barbados, including citizens, has been ruled unconstitutional, stopping the government from going through with the controversial move.
High Court judge Justice Pamela Beckles delivered that ruling on Thursday in a challenge brought by social activist and attorney-at-law David Comissiong.
Under the Immigration (Biometric) Regulations, 2015, all arriving air and sea passengers were to be required to be fingerprinted from April 1, in order to enter the country. However, following public concern and threats of legal action over the decision, implementation was deferred.
Yesterday, in a case that was heard in chambers after government failed to file a defence within the required 28 days, Justice Beckles ruled the Immigration (Biometric) Regulations null and void and unconstitutional.
“Just as we anticipated, this matter was not contested. It really couldn’t have been contested because the facts were so clear. So Justice Pamela Beckles has granted the order and that order basically says that the Immigration (Biometrics) Regulations, 2015 are null and void and are unconstitutional and an order of certiorari has been granted to quash it. So, as of now those regulations no longer exist,” Comissiong said after the ruling.
Comissiong’s attorneys in the matter, Edmund Hinkson who is also an Opposition parliamentarian and Lalu Hanuman, had challenged the measure on the grounds that an immigration officer had no right and power to prohibit or restrain a Barbadian citizen from leaving or entering the country if that person refused to provide the officer with biometric data. They also argued that the measure breached the rights of a citizen under Section 22 of the Barbados Constitution as well as the Immigration Act Chapter 190, and infringed on the statutory and lawful rights of a citizen or permanent resident.
“What has happened today is a very positive thing because it is sending a message to our citizens. It is saying, ‘this is our country, it belongs to us, these are our rights as citizens of Barbados, we have to value them and we have to be prepared to defend them’. We have to exercise the initiative, exercise a sense of personal responsibility for our country and that is what I have tried to do with this case and I think that effort has been spectacularly vindicated,” Comissiong said.
The Immigration Department had said the measures would have brought Barbados in line with international ports of entry. It said the benefits would have included enhancing the level of national security, identifying individuals travelling with fraudulent identification documents, strengthening border control, reducing crime, improving investigation of crime, and preserving the high international ranking of the Barbados passport. (Caribbean360)