Officers of the Immigration Department have been cleared of any wrongdoing in their handling of a Jamaican visitor last weekend.
The Division of Defence and Security in the Prime Minister’s office has absolved the officers, saying it had found no evidence they had mistreated Sonya King when she arrived here on Saturday for a brief holiday.
King told Barbados TODAY early this week that she and her 14-month-old son Kaleb had been treated inhumanely, made to wait for hours in cold and uncomfortable conditions and given a dirty mattress and blanket on which to spend the night.
After she was put on an early morning flight for Trinidad where she has resided for the past four years, she was taken off the aircraft by a security official and escorted back to the immigration desk where she was told there had been a change of heart and she would be allowed to remain in Barbados for two days, King said in an interview.
So dismayed was the 24-year-old that she intended to sue the Barbados Government, she revealed.
However, in a statement released today through the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS), the Division of Defence and Security, which is responsible for immigration, said a probe had found that immigration officers had gone “above and beyond the call of duty” to assist King and the child.
“No evidence could be found to substantiate the charges of mistreatment as alleged. To the contrary, the Division of Defence and Security is satisfied that the Immigration Officers on duty did everything possible to make Ms King and her son as comfortable as possible, especially considering that events unfolded during the wee hours of the morning,” the statement issued said.
The Division explained that King and her child were initially denied entry into the country because, “she did not have evidence of either a return ticket to Jamaica or status in Trinidad as is legally required”.
King had told Barbados TODAY and other media that the officers had refused to provide hot water for tea for her son and that she was not granted access to her luggage.
The division said contrary to the allegation, hot water had indeed been provided. Regarding the luggage, it said there was a perfectly legitimate reason.
“King could not be afforded access to her luggage at the time she had requested because the luggage was secured by Customs and the airline agents had already departed,” the statement said.
It explained that sleeping facilities were not provided for persons who were denied entry into Barbados, as they were asked to remain in the seating area until the next available flight.
However, the probe showed that immigration officers accommodated King after taking into consideration the lateness of the hour and the infant.
“A mattress, sheet and blanket were provided to Ms King to make her more comfortable. The mattress could only be placed on the floor but it was preferable to Ms King remaining seated all night and was accepted by her without complaint.
“There was no evidence of either the mattress, sheet or blanket being dirty as alleged,” the statement said, adding that King was also given an opportunity to contact her sister via WhatsApp in order to secure a return e-ticket.
“Officers worked with them to see if she could be returned to Trinidad rather than her homeland of Jamaica,” it said.
In order to make the point that Barbados had nothing against visiting Jamaicans, the division presented figures to demonstrate that “only a miniscule fraction” were refused entry.
It said that for the first half of the year, of the 5,332 Jamaicans who arrived in the country, only 20 were denied entry, while 31 were returned home during the same period last year.
Fifty-three Jamaica nationals were deported during the last six months when compared to 101 in 2015, according to the figures.