by Emmanuel Joseph
The senior immigration officer who made the final decision to cancel entry to Barbados of Jamaican Shanique Myrie on March 14, 2011 after approving it, told the Caribbean Court of Justice sitting in Bridgetown today, that the woman with whom Myrie said she was staying, was only fronting for someone else.
On the witness stand was Merlo Reid, an immigration officer of 30 years experience, seven as a supervisor, being subjected to about five and a half hours of intense cross examination by one of Myrie’s lawyers, Michelle Brown, along with Dr. Kathy-Ann Brown, attorney for Jamaica, the intervenor and almost all of the seven judges.
Being “drilled” before a near packed public gallery that included a large number of law students from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus and senior immigration officials, Reid testified that Pamela Clarke was facilitating or fronting for a Daniel Forde so Myrie could enter Barbados.
“[Police Constable Everton] Gittens told me he had information that Myrie was staying with Forde,” noted the immigration officer.
He said Myrie lied to him about who she was going to reside with in Barbados.
His evidence was that Clarke, whom he believed when she told him the claimant was not staying with her, had only allowed her name and telephone number to be used in the arrangement to fool him.
The witness informed the CCJ that his decision to cancel Myrie’s entry was based solely on Clarke’s statement, when he contacted her by phone, that she had no knowledge of the Jamaican woman and that Myrie claimed she knew the Barbadian resident for two years and they had communicated twice weekly on the Internet.
Reid also said that Myrie did not even mention anyone by the name of Daniel Forde, when questioned about her local host, adding that Clarke told him she was doing a favour for a friend in relation to her name being used.
When asked if Forde or Clarke were of good repute, the senior immigration officer replied: “I can’t speak to that.”
The question from one of the judges related to a list of reasons for refusal of entry into Barbados, which were earlier recited by Reid and included persons of ill repute.
“I don’t know if Clarke or Forde were of good repute,” he responded when pressed further by the justice.
He said he did not think it necessary to make further enquiries before making his decision to cancel Myrie’s entry.
Another judge asked Reid if lying to an immigration officer was enough to warrant refusal of entry, and the witness suggested that the Immigration Act provided for that.
He was of the view that the claimant knew she was staying with Clarke, agreeing that this would be a lie.
However, under further probing by the judge, he conceded that if Myrie thought she was staying with Clarke, while in fact, it was Forde, “this would not be a lie on Myrie’s part and therefore not grounds for refusal”.
The state witness was also tested on the “unsanitary and inhumane” conditions of the detention centre at the Grantley Adams International Airport, where the claimant was purportedly housed on March 14, 2011.
He was showed a series of photographs taken by another CARICOM deportee, supposedly of the detention facilities.
Pressed by Myrie’s attorney Michelle Brown, Reid, in a “soft” voice, told the tribunal the photos reflected what appeared to be the immigration centre.
The images, which constituted evidence before the court, revealed a wash room with mildew stained walls and a “single” bed covered only with a thin piece of spounge and general unsanitary conditions.
Before being shown the pictures, Reid described the beds in the centre as board based, about three feet wide, covered with a mattress of spounge, leatherette and then sheets.
He testified that the beds were big enough to accommodate more than one person. The immigration supervisor informed the court that Myrie and another Jamaican woman shared the same bed, as requested by them.
Asked about the coldness of the centre, he admitted that such temperatures were a general challenge at the airport, and something beyond his control. Reid said he too was cold at times.
The witness did tell the CCJ, that for all his years at the airport, he had never seen the detention centre in such an “unfortunate” condition. He observed that the photos shown to him did not reflect his description of the tidy centre to which he was accustomed.
But when state attorney Roger Forde countered in his examination of the witness regarding the photos, he painted a different picture of the situation.
“Can you say if the room in the photographs was in operation at the time?” Forde queried.
“I can’t tell?” Reid replied.
“Can you tell [from the photos] if Miss Myrie stayed in that room?” the attorney continued.
“No sir,” the immigration officer answered.
“Can you say if the detention centre in Barbados was any tidier than ones in Dominica or Jamaica?” asked the state counsel.
“No sir,” Reid responded.
Following up earlier approaches by the Jamaican lawyers that put the Barbados immigration centre in an unfavourable light, Forde argued that “we have no benchmark in terms of CARICOM with detention centres”.
He insisted that there was no evidence by which one could right now compare the various detention centres in the region with each other.
The only other witness called today was Police Constable Everton Gittens, who had interviewed the woman who Myrie claimed she was going to reside with and who saw the claimant on the day in question at the airport.
The hearing, in which Myrie is accusing the local border officials of breaching certain fundamental rights and freedoms, treating her inhumanely, including subjecting her to a body cavity search, will resume tomorrow morning at 9 o’clcock.
The President of the CCJ Justice Denis Byron said he wanted to conclude the Barbados leg of the case then, before returning to the Trinidad and Tobago headquarters to hear the final submissions. [email protected]