For the past three months, a man, said to be from the Dominican Republic, has been living in legal limbo – held here by immigration authorities seeking to verify his citizenship while the nation he claims as home is refusing to take him after he was found drifting in the Caribbean Sea without identity papers.
The man, Juan Abrahan Ramirez Rijo, 35, has been staying at the detention facility at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) since January 5. He had been taken into custody by the Coast Guard after being rescued at sea by a cruise ship along with 12 other men last December.
Ramirez’s, address is listed on a charge sheet as Calle Sanchez Casa 112, San Pedro, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
While the others have since been repatriated after family members provided authorities with positive identification, no one has come forward with the necessary documentation for Ramirez.
And the stranded man’s legal liabilities have now piled up, as he has now found himself at HMP Dodds after being hauled before the law court over the weekend on a charge of criminal damage stemming from his prolonged stay.
While he was being held in detention at the airport, an immigration department supervisor was informed that he had defecated in the room and placed some of the faeces inside a Styrofoam container and pushed it under the door. He also held onto the door and shook it until it was damaged. His actions were caught on CCTV camera, the prosecutor Sergeant St Clair Phillips told the court.
He was taken to the Psychiatric Hospital for observation and was released into police custody on April 5 where he was charged with damaging an external door, two door locks and hardware, a washroom doorframe and drywall the property of the airport without lawful excuse on March 30.
The man pleaded guilty to the charge when he appeared before Magistrate Douglas Frederick.
It was there at the District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Court that an immigration officer revealed that the other dozen men have been sent home having been positively identified.
But the court learned that while authorities got information of Ramirez’s nationality, no one from the Dominican Republic has provided proof of identification which he said had been lost at sea.
Ramirez himself told the court he had spent a month in prison in Miami. He told Magistrate Frederick that if he was imprisoned here he wanted to be deported to the D.R. But the authorities in Santo Domingo are apparently refusing to accept him without proof of identification.
When contacted, Ambassador to CARICOM David Comissiong told Barbados TODAY he was not aware of the situation. The Dominican Republic, though not a member of CARICOM, is part of the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) group of former European colonies in the Caribbean, which includes all 15 CARICOM member states and the D.R.
Ambassador Comissiong said: “Perhaps the reason that it was not drawn to my attention is that the Dominican Republic is not a member state of CARICOM (Caribbean Community), but the Dominican Republic is a member of the Association of Caribbean States and Barbados has just taken up chairmanship of that organisation. So if the details of the matter are made available to me I will certainly make some enquires to see if I can be of any help in the situation.”
Comissiong who is also a social activist believes that such matters call for the establishment of a human rights organisation in Barbados.
“It is unfortunate that we do not have a human rights institution in Barbados that could readily come to the assistance of persons who find themselves in this type of predicament. What this person really needs is the services of an attorney-at-law and it is regrettable that we don’t have that human rights organisation that could provide that kind of assistance to a person.”
For now, Ramirez has been remanded to HMP Dodds until May 3, when for a fourth month, authorites try to ascertain official proof of his identification and national status. email@example.com