(Jamaica Observer) A Jamaican woman has complained that she was made to feel like a prisoner after being denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago only days before the 39th regular meeting of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Heads of Government in Montego Bay, St James.
The woman, who spoke to the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday and asked not to be identified, was deported to Jamaica on Sunday this week, a day before Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque told journalists in Kingston that there has been an improvement with regard to the number of Jamaicans denied entry into Trinidad.
According to the young mother, who is from St Mary and operates a clothing store, she was detained by immigration officers when she arrived at Piarco International Airport in Port of Spain on Caribbean Airlines flight BW458 shortly after 7:00 pm on Saturday, June 30.
She said that she was spoken to in a derogatory manner by one of the immigration officers, who locked her and her four-month-old son in a room with six Venezuelans for several hours.
“The flight stopped in St Maarten first, then in Trinidad, and was going on to Barbados. I was going to Trinidad. When I arrived at the airport I handed her (immigration officer) at desk 15 my immigration form and told her ‘good night’. She asked me how long I’d be there for, and I told her a month. She asked me if it was my first time travelling to the island and I told her ‘no’,” the woman recounted.
She said she was then asked when was the last time she visited Trinidad, and why.
“I told her [why] and I told that I arrived in February 2017. I was due to leave in August, but I was sick, because I was pregnant. I had got a letter from the doctor and took it to their immigration centre. I applied for an extension and it was granted. I was due to leave on August 14 and I got the extension until the 31st of October,” she said.
She told the Observer that she had to return to Jamaica before October because she had left her other son, who is eight years old, with her sister and mother in Jamaica. However, her sister became ill and had to undergo surgery. So she returned to Jamaica in September 2017.
“She insisted that I overstayed. I told her I did not overstay. I told her I got an extension. She started to argue and ask why they granted me an extension and it was my first time in the country. She asked me how much money I was travelling with, and I told her that I have US$150 along with my debit card,” the woman explained.
She said she was then asked the name and relation of the person “receiving” her.
“I told her that the person was the baby’s father and that he is Trinidadian. It was the first my baby’s father was going to see him because he was born here in Jamaica. She asked me to show the money to her, and I told her to allow me to get my suitcase because the money was in it. She said ‘no.’ She called another immigration officer to discuss it, then asked for a number for my baby’s father. I gave it to her. Up until today he has received no phone call. She pretended to call him. So he was outside waiting not knowing what was going on inside,” she shared.
According to her, she managed to get a telephone call from a woman who appeared to be Jamaican and notified her child’s father of the situation.
“My baby was screaming and I was out of formula. I was not expecting to be in the airport that long. It was a frightening experience for me. I had never been through such a humiliating situation. I have been to other countries and I have never experienced what I did at Piarco,” she said.
The woman said approximately 8:30 pm, she was told to “sit around the back” of the airport.
“I started crying because I was confused, because I didn’t have any warm water to make him a bottle, and I couldn’t breastfeed because I hadn’t eaten. About 20 minutes later, she took away my passports. She called me back to the counter and said to me that I was denied entry into Trinidad. I asked why I was denied entry, but she didn’t answer. She told me to go back and sit around the back. She didn’t tell me that I didn’t meet the requirements for entry. She just ordered me to sit around the back. I obeyed,” the woman related.
“The last time I saw her was at the Caribbean Airlines counter. I went over to speak to her and she turned around, rolled her eyes, and turned back around. I went back to sit,” she said.
She told the Observer that the woman left and so she sought answers from a security guard.
“I asked her if I could get some warm water so that I could make a bottle for the baby and she gave me. I kept on asking what was going on, then she told me that they were booking my flight to go back to Jamaica. So I went and sat,” she said.
She explained that shortly after 1:00 am she was taken to a motel, along with the Venezuelans, to stay for the night. She said that when she arrived at the motel she requested food, but was denied and only ate when she returned to Jamaica the following day. The baby also went without food throughout the night, the woman said.
“I started to cry again because I was frustrated. I was dealing with the security guard that they assigned to me because I was at the motel. I asked her if the father could come there and see his child and she said ‘no’. I was locked in that room with a security guard outside the door. I cried all night. I felt like a prisoner. I am not used to that in my country, and then what if there is an emergency and I have a four-month-old baby with me?” she said.
On Monday, she was taken to the airport at 5:00 am to “check in”, after which she said she was taken back to the motel until her 7:00 am flight.
“I got back my passports when I arrived in Jamaica. From the time I land in Trinidad until I arrived in Jamaica they didn’t give me a cup of water. I couldn’t breastfeed my child on a hungry stomach. I was so weak I was taken around in a wheelchair at the airport. They had me in a room so cold I had to wrap my baby in two blankets. The blankets mildewed right there in the airport because of how cold it was. I have never been so embarrassed in my entire life,” the woman said.
Since her return, the woman has spoken to an attorney. She also contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and was told to fill out a complaint form.
On Wednesday, an official at the ministry confirmed that they had received the complaint.