Last update: 13-Dec-2013 2:53 am
Friday, December 13, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Deprivation and unwarranted deportation
In this era of globalisation, the migration phenomenon has caused many changes in the family structure of Trinidad and Tobago. As viewed by foreign nationals, T&T, despite its challenges has become a favoured destination. In the process of interacting with foreign nationals, decisions are made with respect to courtship, love and marriage.
That process can become very intricate and at times cumbersome when the Immigration Department becomes involved in terms of deciding the substance, validity and durability of the marriage.
The challenges ensuing from this immigration process can actually debilitate the marriage, as discretionary authority and humanitarian and compassionate considerations appear to be non-existent at times. Moreover, rather than facilitate and expedite the process after examination, a Hitlerian hard-nosed approach at times is utilised.
As such, today, many citizens of this twin-island republic are being treated in a rather inhumane and inconsiderate manner when it comes to family re-unification. Far too many men and women who are legitimately married to foreign nationals with whom they have children are being adversely affected on an emotional, psychological, mental, physical and financial level.
Currently, there are nationals who are married to citizens of Guyana, the USA, Germany, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Jamaica who are undergoing a rather torturous process in acquiring their work permits and residence, that can be best described as devoid of humanitarian and compassionate considerations.
For example, within the Prime Minister’s constituency, Zalia Ramnarine, a Portuguese national, married and living with a citizen of T&T, had to wait an agonising 19 years before being properly attended to by Immigration authorities. An adequate and proper response only came about as a result of intervention by this columnist. Can you imagine the trauma this Portuguese national had to undergo, being deprived of visiting her family in Portugal for so long?
There are current cases where elderly citizens, one over 70 years old from Penal, who need their foreign-based spouses and do not have anyone to intervene on their behalf. There are also citizens who have been injured on their jobs, as well as those who have been paralysed in accidents and who need their spouses to be with them. These critical situations beg the question, what kind of immigration policy are we adopting? What kind of process do we have that separates the family for so long?
Where is our care, concern and humanity, when one of the Immigration objectives as specified in Volume 1 of the manual is the need for “promoting the unification or re-unification of families in Trinidad and Tobago” and in accord with Section 6 (c) of the Immigration Act.
Is this the best way to execute an arm of immigration policy if we do have one? Is it that our inhumanity to each other is evidenced by the hard hearted and callous approach by the authority, which renders us completely indifferent to the rule of law and is in contravention of international human rights law?
There is an obvious connection between migration and human rights. In moving between countries fundamental rights are often being exercised, for instance, to be reunited with someone’s family. It is to be noted that international human rights law has already played a significant role in immigration cases before the courts in Canada, the UK, and the USA. One of the prominent cases in the UK relating to family life and re-unification is that of Abdulaziz, Cabales and Balkadali v UK(1985)7 EHRR 471.
This case established the principle that Convention rights, and in this case, the right to respect for family life (Article 8) do apply to a State’s immigration decision. The principle in Abdulaziz remains a critical foundation factor in the relationship between immigration decisions and human rights.
Yes, the State has a right to control the entry of non-nationals as per the Westphalian Treaty, but this right is subject to its treaty obligations. Have we not ratified and signed international human rights treaties that include family life? What does our Constitution teach about family life? Have we trained and educated our officers to think differently?
Another publicly disturbing manifestation in the Immigration Department is the unjustifiable deportation of foreign nationals, which is also in contravention of administrative law and international human rights law. Acting contrary to the Immigration Act and in breach of procedural fairness, they are subject to an officer’s own law but not guided by clearly articulated decisions and procedures.
They pose no threat to public safety, danger to the public, nor to national security and are willing to leave on their own. However, some Immigration officers who conduct special inquiries (SI) do not even understand their role as a SI operates like a kangaroo court. Clearly this must change immediately.
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