Caribbean News Round – up

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Jamaica to participate in US visa programme

Passport-and-VisaWASHINGTON, United States (CMC) – The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Department of State, have added five Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries among others worldwide that are eligible to participate in visa programmes.

On Friday, USCIS announced that Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Haiti, and Jamaica are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B Visa programmes, effective January 18, 2016.

Sixty-eight countries globally are eligible to participate in the visa programme on that effective date.

It said H-2A and H-2B Visa programmes allow US employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural and non-agricultural jobs, respectively.

“Typically, USCIS only approves H-2A and H-2B petitions for nationals of countries the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated as eligible to participate in the programmes,” the statement said.

“USCIS, however, may approve H-2A and H-2B petitions for nationals of countries not on the list if it is determined to be in the interest of the United States,” it added.

USCIS said the DHS reserves the right to add countries to the eligible countries list at any time, and to remove any country at any time DHS determines that a country fails to meet the requirements for continued designation.

The notice does not affect the status of beneficiaries who currently are in the United States in H-2A or H-2B status unless they apply to change or extend their status. Each country’s designation is valid for one year from January 18, 2016.

 

Legal maze leaves Haitian ‘ghost citizens’ in Dom Rep

ghost-citizensLONDON, England (CMC) – The London-based human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, claims that the Dominican Republic’s bureaucratic legal maze has left thousands of stateless “ghost citizens” of Haitian descent who are unable to work regularly, enroll in high school or even see a doctor.

In a new report, “Without papers, I am no one: Stateless people in the Dominican Republic”, Amnesty International debunks official statements that no one in the Dominican Republic lacks a nationality.

It explores the intricate legal labyrinth created by the authorities since the 1990s and, more recently, through a 2013 ruling which has “arbitrarily left tens of thousands of people born to foreign parents or grandparents without a nationality”.

“With the stroke of a pen, authorities in the Dominican Republic have effectively wiped four generations of Dominicans off the map,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, America’s Director at Amnesty International. “Without nationality, tens of thousands of people have become virtual ghosts, who face serious obstacles in accessing basic services in the country.

“The efforts made by the government to address the situation of those made stateless have proven insufficient,” she added. “Hiding away from this drama by saying the problem does not exist will not make it go away.”

Since the early 1990s, Amnesty International said Dominican-born people of Haitian descent have become the target of a number of administrative, legislative and judicial decisions aimed at restricting their access to Dominican identity documents and ultimately to Dominican nationality.

In September 2013, the Dominican Constitutional Court ruled that children born in the country since 1929 to undocumented foreign parents are not entitled to Dominican nationality, Amnesty International said.

It said the ruling effectively left the vast majority of them stateless.

“The government tried to mitigate the effects of this discriminatory judgement but, along the way, has created a number of intricate processes and categories of people that most find impossible to navigate,” Amnesty International said.

It said a six-month naturalization programme, which expired on February 1, 2015, “has proven mostly inadequate”.

Amnesty International said hundreds of people report that they never received information about the programme and only learnt of its existence after it had already expired.

Many claim that the list of papers they were required to produce was impossible to comply with, it said, adding that this included a signed declaration by a midwife or seven witnesses who could testify that they were born in the country.

Additionally, Amnesty International said many parents are still refused birth registration for their children and that the majority of these children continue to be stateless.

Dozens of people in the Dominica Republic of foreign descent who spoke with Amnesty International said the lack of papers put them in a “very vulnerable position, exposing them to abuse”.

Amnesty International spoke with Marisol (not her real name), a young Dominican Republic-born woman of Haitian descent. Neither she nor her brothers and sisters were registered at birth, as their parents had no formal identification, Amnesty International said.

When her parents died, Marisol was 10 years old and had no other choice but to become a domestic worker with a wealthy family in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.

The family promised to send her to school, but instead forced her to work 15 hours a day, Amnesty International said. It said that they beat her and never allowed her to attend school.

According to Amnesty International, Marisol “could not apply to the naturalization plan as, by the time she had heard about it, it had already expired”.

The family she works for as a cleaner is now threatening to fire her, afraid of the sanctions they might face for employing an undocumented person, Amnesty International said. With no identity papers, Marisol cannot register her children.

“I hoped they could have a better future, but without identity documents it is not going to be possible,” she told the international human rights watchdog.

“Authorities in the Dominican Republic must urgently find a long-term solution to this crisis,” Guevara-Rosas said.

“A simple and accessible procedure, without a time limit for the recognition of the Dominican nationality to all those deprived of it by the 2013 ruling, would be a crucial first step,” she added.

 

Taxi driver and woman fight over alleged sex promise

gavel-2[Jamaica Observer] – A 60-year-old taxi driver appeared in court for reportedly attacking an 18-year-old woman who stabbed him in his belly after he drove her to an unknown location and tried to have sex with her.

The court heard that the complainant and her friend chartered the taxi, but after friend got off, the driver, Clive Simms, turned off the route to her house and drove her to an unknown location.

He is accused of pulling her into a house where he tried to have sex with her, but ended up in fight in which she cut him with a knife.

“At first he was going the right way, then he turned off and start to drive faster and when we reached a place with some zinc fence he stopped,” the complainant told the court.

“He start draw me by my hair into a board house and then when we reach in there me and him start tussle, and so come me stab him inna him belly bottom,” the complainant further related.

However, the prosecutor told the court that the accused, in his statement, said that he took the woman to the location after she promised to have sex with him.

“Well, send it to trial and a jury will hear it and see if it makes sense, “RM Maxine Ellis said.

The magistrate told the court that nothing was wrong if the complainant had changed her mind about having sex with Simms.

“If it was agreed and it was un-agreed, nothing is wrong with that,” she said. “You can take back consent and say it was a mistake and say you want to go home.”

“You can’t hold somebody to a promise that they don’t want to keep,” she added before extending bail to both the accused and the complainant. They are to return to court in January.

 

Islamic Front: 75 Trinis fighting for terror groups

isis[Trinidad Newsday] – There are about 75 nationals who left Trinidad and migrated to the Middle-East for the purpose of fighting with Islamic rebel groups such as the Taliban and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In a startling revelation to Sunday Newsday yesterday, Umar Abdullah, who heads the Waajiahtul Islaamiyyah (The Islamic Front), said that about 35 of them are men with wives and children who are living in either Syria or Iraq.

They are driven more by the pull of being paid as rebel fighters than for any ideology, he added. Abdullah disclosed he had received feedback from nationals in Syria and Iraq who told him they are being paid adequately, “on a daily basis”.

“These are brothers who have left Trinidad with their families because they are very poor here; they lived secluded lives, and, there is little hope for them. It is not that they are killers.

They have a conviction, however, that they are defending the takeover of Arab lands by the allied forces of the Western world to give to Israel. I do not support ISIS, but no Muslim will support the ravaging of the Middle-East,” Abdullah declared.

He claimed six of the 75 persons were killed while fighting for ISIS and their families have since returned to Trinidad. Abdullah told Sunday Newsday that, based on his previous association with at least 35 nationals who have gone to Syria and Iraq, he can say with a level of certainty, that they were currently involved in Islamist rebel groups, including ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

And it is the quest for economic gains as well, Abdullah said, that the “brothers” whom he was once familiar with, travelled with their families to Iraq and Syria.

However, Yacoob Ali, head of the country’s largest Muslim organisation, the Anjuman Sunnat-ul-Jamaat Association (ASJA), is cautious about reports of Trinidadians joining terrorist groups, saying confirmed data had to come from credible authorities, and advised people should be wary of speculation.

Ali said unless ASJA is furnished with information on whether or not there are in fact Trinidadians engaged in war-like activities in Arab countries, the organisation would reserve comment.

“We are not aware or advised officially by any competent body of the movement of persons from our country to countries in the Arab world for the purpose of fighting for groups like ISIS. We have heard rumours, people talking, but not even our own security forces have revealed that our nationals are abroad engaging in war. ASJA would operate on assumption.

“We have not been able to confirm who has gone and if they have, whether they have actually engaged in war,” Ali told Sunday Newsday.

Debate on if Trinidadians are in the Middle East fighting for terrorist groups and if so how many are there and should they be allowed to return home intensified this week after the ISIS’s attack on Paris, France on November 13 which left 129 people dead and more than 300 injured. If Trinidadians are fighting in the Arab world they would be few in number, believes Islamic scholar Siddiq Nasir describing such persons as misguided.

He admits the financial incentive is a big factor to the migration to the Middle-East but insists most Muslims reject the ideology of terror groups.

“We’ve been told money is also involved. My answer is that not a single bonafide Muslim organisation in the world today has supported ISIS. They have all opposed it. We know five or so people have gone, but what have they gone for, we don’t know,” Nasir told Sunday Newsday.

The Darul-Uloom organisation which operates a primary and secondary school in central Trinidad agreed with Nasir that those who went to the Middle-East were “misguided”.

It took note of a video posted on facebook two weeks ago, which aired on local television newscasts, of persons with heavy military equipment. One of the men is reportedly from Rio Claro and was seen conducting a military training exercise against a background of palm trees. The organisation this week condemned the Paris attacks.

A British Broadcasting Service investigative report into the financial operations of ISIS, revealed this week that the organisation earns millions of dollars daily, from the sale of oil on the black market. ISIS reportedly once had control of 45 percent of the oilfields in Iraq and Syria. Together with donations from abroad, ISIS, according to the report, controls the sale of wheat crops and imposes taxation on the population of people who live in the areas under their control.

National Security Minister Brigadier Edmund Dillon has said Government is concerned about reports of the presence of nationals amid terror groups and has been liaising with local, regional and international intelligence agencies. Last year, former national security minister Gary Griffith disclosed that Trinidadians had gone to the Middle East, and, it was believed, to join ISIS.

 

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