This is the word from Chief Justice Roxane George as she on Friday denied a request by Attorney General Anil Nandlall to dismiss the pending application filed on their behalf over the alleged violation of their fundamental rights by the state.
During an on-line hearing, Nandlall told the court that the whereabouts of the 26 Haitians were unknown and asked that the case be dismissed as the subjects of the application were no longer in the jurisdiction.
He told the court that he had written a letter to attorney Darren Wade, who has been representing the interest of the immigrants, asking him to disclose their locations or to present them to the court during the hearing. He stated that he had never received a response.
“I don’t think that the persons on whose behalf these proceedings are filed are within the jurisdiction of Guyana and, therefore, I will ask on that basis that the application be dismissed,” Nandlall stated.
Wade, who had started the hearing by asking for an extension of time, stated that he did receive an email from Nandlall regarding the issue and he has confronted his client, who told him that he had been in communication with persons from the AG Chambers.
He admitted that the Haitians had indeed left the jurisdiction but that notwithstanding, he believed there were serious issues in the case that need to be addressed and the court should at least make declarations on the matter as their rights have been violated.
He further argued that the law does not say that the subjects of the applicant need to be in jurisdiction for the court to decide on if they should proceed with the matter.
The Chief Justice noted that based on her assessment of the application, there were numerous issues on the submissions presented by the state that need to be addressed.
She said the issues that need to be addressed for future guidance on how such a matter should dealt with. She noted that the absence of the subjects of applicant in the court and by extension the country does not mean that they do not want to proceed with the case.
Justice George stated that she is trying to understand at what point were the subjects no longer considered victims of trafficking and at what point it was determined that they were prohibited immigrants.
The Chief Justice added that she also wanted to know the status of the 26 Haitian nationals who were detained for weeks at the state-run Hugo Chavez Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintegration between November 8th and November 30th, among other things.
The Haitians arrived in Guyana in November and were admitted to stay for six months. However, the day after their arrival they were rounded up by the Police and taken to the government facility in Berbice where they remained.
The Government said the Haitians were being held in “protective custody” as they were suspected to be victims of human trafficking. However, the Haitians through their lawyer Darren Wade, acting on behalf of the Association of Haitian Nationals in Guyana, denied that they were victims of human trafficking and voiced their displeasure over their detention.
The government moved to the Magistrates’ Court and was granted deportation orders to remove the Haitians from Guyana. However, Wade applied to the High Court and was granted a hold on the deportation order as he argued that the order was unlawful.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall in a statement said Haitians were not entitled to visa free entry to Guyana or consideration under sections of the Fundamental Rights provisions of Guyana’s constitution as Haiti had not signed onto the free movement aspect of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME).
He was however rebuffed by Opposition Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amanza Walton Desir, who pointed out that "on 11th January 2019, President Granger signed "Immigration Order 2019" amending Part B, Schedule 1 to the Principal Act, to insert Haiti as a CARICOM Member State whose nationals "Shall be permitted by an immigration officer to enter and remain in Guyana, either for a definite or indefinite period," subject to the caveats under Cap.14:02 of the Immigration Act of the Laws of Guyana.
Just after 8:30pm on Wednesday December 9, the 26 Haitian nationals which included children were rounded up at the Hugo Chavez Centre in Berbice and told to get their belongings and board the two buses in the compound.
The buses brought them into the city just after 10:30 pm. According to one of the Haitians, they were given their passports as they were allowed to leave the buses close to the hotel where they had been staying prior to their detention. Some of them complained that their treatment was humiliating."
- Countries: Guyana, Haiti, CARICOM
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