Hylton told the Rotary Club of St. Andrew, that some three years after the Shanique Myrie ruling in the case against Barbados over how she was treated by immigration officials, Jamaica and other Caribbean Community (Caricom)states should not still be at loggerheads about rights of entry matters.
“I believe that that matter should appropriately be brought before the CCJ at an appropriate time,” he stated, pointing out that the Myrie case was the perfect example of how the Treaty of Chaguaramas can be used to settle the current dispute between Jamaica and Trinidad over the reported mistreatment and rejection of Jamaican nationals by Trinidadian immigration.
Over the past several months, an increasing number of Jamaicans have been turned back at the Piarco International Airport in Port of Spain by Trinidadian immigration, for various reasons which experts believe can be successfully challenged under the Treaty.
A majority of those who have been denied landing, have complained of being ill-treated by T&T immigration officers and being forced to endure inhumane conditions in airports as they wait to be returned to Jamaica.
Hylton, a former foreign affairs minister, noted that the significant number of Jamaicans turned back from the two-island country in recent times and who complained of being treated poorly “does suggest that something extraordinary is happening [and] invites us to inquire about exactly what is happening”.
Hylton argued that, instead of just complaining, Jamaica needs to look to the Myrie case and take advantage of the legal framework provided by the CCJ to test its complaints, a clear reference to calls for a boycott of Trinidadian goods on local supermarket shelves, which Hylton says would be a “knee-jerk” reaction.
He stressed that it was not enough nor productive to retaliate, and that the Government and other stakeholders should, therefore, collaborate to bring cases before the CCJ. “If you assume that the evidence exists, why are we unwilling to bring these to the CCJ?” he asked.
He suggested that although cost is an issue for some individuals, even more influential and financially stable individuals who felt they were harassed and mistreated by Trinidadian officials had stayed quiet, possibly out of embarrassment.
He said, too, that the Government could look into providing poorer potential claimants with legal assistance to take individual cases to the CCJ
Under pressure from the Jamaican Government, Trinidad last week said it would implement customer service training at Piarco airport next month, specifically targeting officers who interact with passengers who are denied entry; and retro-fit a dedicated facility for those who are denied entry.
At the initial stages, G. Anthny Hylton, Michelle Brown, and Marc Ramsay, all of the law firm HyltonBrown assisted in preparing the Shanique Myrie case.
In March 2011, Myrie complained of being subjected to a dehumanising cavity search by a woman immigration officer at the Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados. Myrie said that she was locked overnight in a filthy room and sent back to Jamaica the following day.
She initiated a legal procedure through the CCJ for damages, and the CCJ, in its most pronounced ruling to date, subsequently found that she was unlawfully treated and ordered the Government of Barbados to pay compensation to her and to cover the costs of her legal representation.
The CCJ did not reach a decision on some aspects of the treatment allegedly meted out to Ms Myrie, but the Court decided that she had been illegally refused entry into Barbados, and ordered that damages be paid for this.