They overstayed their welcome and assaulted an immigration officer in the process but their attorneys Michael Lashley, QC, and Dayna Taylor Lavine in urging the court to show “mercy” today, expressed concern about the alleged treatment being meted out to non-nationals.
Lashley told Chief Magistrate Christopher Birch that the situation involving four females; three Colombians and a Guyanese, “could have been handled better”.
His concerns stemmed from an altercation at the Grantley Adams International Airport which resulted in his clients, Colombians 31-year-old Leidy Yurani Rodas Lemos, 19-year-old Johanna Martinez Palacios and 21-year-old Carolina Estupinan, along with 23-year-old Guyanese Handisa Amanda Adam’s landing before the District ‘C’ St Matthias Magistrate’s Court charged with assaulting immigration officer Carlisle Murray on November 13 in the execution of his duties.
All the Colombians pleaded guilty to the charge after the chief magistrate read it with the help of an interpreter, while the Guyanese woman first denied the offence but later entered a guilty plea.
An immigration officer then informed the court that Palacios arrived in Barbados on July 17 and was given three months stay as a visitor, while Lemos arrived on the same date and was granted a 15-day visitor’s stay. Estupinan arrived on May 24 last year and got permission to stay in the country for three months, while Adams arrived on August 31, 2018 and was granted six months stay. Her status was revoked on November 12 by the Minister responsible for Immigration.
Station Sergeant Peter Barrow said the women were being kept in custody at the airport by immigration awaiting deportation when a fifth woman went to the supervisors office demanding a phone call. Murray informed the detainee that she would have to wait and asked her to return to the lobby, but the unidentified woman refused. Murray who was sitting at the time got up and started to walk towards the detainee who began to walk backwards. While doing that she stumbled, fell and started to scream and shout that the immigration officer had pushed her down.
While disclosing those facts, Estupinan who was listening to the interpreter laughed and shook her head.
The prosecutor continued that the other four women came running and became noisy in the process. After being asked to move from the area and into the main lobby they complied, albeit boisterously.
Murray also went to area but was attacked by the women who cuffed and threw bottles at him and even a nearby garbage can. This piece of information again caused Estupinan to laugh and she was quickly spoken to by her countryman.
The prosecutor said as a result Murray had to seek medical care after he was also bitten on the hand but was treated and discharged.
“This matter is of some concern to me. Yes I have full confidence in government officials, those persons who are entrusted to deal with non-nationals entering this country but there are serious concerns,” Lashley said as he addressed the court in mitigation.
“These three non-nationals [referring to the Colombians] – it is true they have overstayed but I believe that the matter could have been handled in a different way. [I] also believe too that because there is a perception that [females] are involved in some activity . . . . It does not mean that a certain form of treatment should be meted out to them because . . . they have rights,” the Queen’s Counsel stated.
The defence attorney went on to explain that the other woman who was with the quartet was in the hospital but would be released.
“We also question why a male immigration officer was dealing with four females, but at the hospital, the female was accompanied by female officers . ..
“Yes we want to protect the name of Barbados and of course as a Barbadian I will seek to protect the name of Barbados, but if there are some things that we have to question I obviously have to raise them as an officer of the court,” Lashley lamented, even as he revealed that the Colombians had purchased tickets for their return trip home.
The attorney then urged Chief Magistrate Birch to show his clients mercy by strongly reprimanding and discharging them.
Instead, Birch convicted, reprimanded and discharged the women and handed them over to the Immigration Department.
Lashley then turned his attention to Caricom national Adams, questioning how her stay could be revoked.
“The immigration officer should come with the documents stating that it has been revoked,” the lawyer argued to which the officer said that the documents could get to the St Matthias Court post haste.
After speaking privately with her two attorneys, a crying Adams changed her plea to guilty and suffered the same fate as the other three women.
Following the proceeding, Lashley informed Barbados TODAY that he would file a civil suit as early as next week against the immigration officer on behalf of the fifth woman on the grounds of “excessive use of force”.