CAL flight 763 departed Piarco International Airport around 7 a.m. yesterday with approximately 15 illegal immigrants from Ghana and some 12 Special Branch officers on board.
Before the flight, lawyers for the State as well as attorneys for some of the immigrants, were engaged in a fierce 12 hour legal battle before High Court and the Court of Appeal far into the morning in a bid to stop the flight.
Legal sources said that these sittings were extremely exceptional as they were known in the past to occur for death penalty matters, where warrants of execution were challenged to stop the death penalty from being carried out.
The court hearings took hours because each case was individually heard by the court.
After failing to successfully challenge the deportation order of the Chief Immigration Officer all the applications were dismissed and the court ordered that the deportation order be executed.
The men were immediately whisked away to Piarco, where the CAL plane was waiting to take them to Ghana.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said the action by the State was warranted and stressed that there was no witch hunt against immigrants.
He told the Trinidad Express that “The rule of law has prevailed and the process was followed. A historic emergency session of the High Court and Court of the Appeal was necessary to avoid any further delay and unwarranted expenditure that can surpass $2 million.”
Ramlogan justified the $2.6 million private charter, saying that it was difficult to get visas for these men to travel back to Ghana through commercial flights as countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and Brazil did not want to grant the intransit visas.
“This is not a witch hunt, we are asking persons to come forward and we are providing them with the opportunity to be regularised,” said Ramlogan.
The AG said some illegal immigrants have a track record related to criminal activities.
He said one of the persons who applied for judicial review travelled to the United Kingdom and was held in England for transporting drugs from Trinidad.
Ramlogan said that person was sent back to Trinidad after he served his sentence in the UK.
“Our intelligence suggests that there are many dimensions to this problem, including links to the gangs, drugs, arms and other crimes that have plagued our society.”
Ramlogan said the State will remain flexible and open in hearing each case and will be fair based on the evidence provided.
However, he said, no attempts to misuse this country’s immigrations laws as a cover for criminal activities will be tolerated.
Asked about the cost to charter the plane, the AG said: “We had no choice in the matter, in law it is the home country that is responsible for the cost of repatriation, unfortunately there are countries that refuse to pay and it becomes a burden on our taxpayers.
“Suffice it to say, no one is above the law and all illegal immigrants will be treated in the same manner.”
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