A 31-year-old Haitian man who says he was forced to flee his homeland to save his life is now seeking political asylum in Barbados.
“I have political prosecution in my country, Haiti and I flee here to Barbados to save my life,” Jean Wilny Michel told Barbados TODAY on the steps of the Supreme Court today where his case for asylum is being heard.
The computer scientist and television broadcast technician arrived in Bridgetown last September where he was given a six-month stay as a visitor, which expired on March 25.
But before his time was up, attorney-at-law Lalu Hanuman filed an urgent writ before the court on his behalf seeking refuge.
Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson is hearing the matter which is believed to be the first of its kind in the country.
In October 1983, then Prime Minister Tom Adams made an offer of political asylum to Unison Whiteman, foreign minister in Grenada’s People’s Revolutionary Government, while in transit to St. George’s. Whiteman declined the offer and continued on to Grenada, where he was later executed along with Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and other government leaders by rogue PRG military and political figures.
Following a 15-minute hearing in the High Court, Hanuman told Barbados TODAY: “Our application was for political asylum in Barbados because of the repression he was undergoing in Haiti. The Chief Justice in a very humanitarian and perceptive order back on March 26 ruled that that there should be a stay of deportation pending a decision by the Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson on the application for political asylum.
“He is part of the opposition in Haiti and suffered persecution as a result so he is really seeking sanctuary in Barbados from political oppression back in Haiti, he is seeking a safe haven.”
But Hanuman said Barbados has no prior precedent “as far as we are aware” of anybody being granted political asylum.
“Political asylum in Barbados is something unknown really. Barbados hasn’t ratified the 1951 Convention of Refugees so it is not something that has been previously done in Barbados so it is creating jurisprudence in Barbados in that effect,” The attorney added.
The sitting resulted in the Chief Justice asking for more information and research on the matter, especially as Haiti is a member of the Caribbean Community and with Barbados opening its borders to its French-speaking CARICOM counterparts.
Hanuman continued: “Research in terms of procedures to be followed because obviously he comes from a country that is part of CARICOM and Barbados has recently extended their CSM (Caricom Single Market) programme to Haiti – the Caribbean skilled national. So the Chief Justice wants us to investigate whether in fact despite him not having all his documentation if he could possibly still qualify for the CSM programme regardless of the lack of adequate documentation.
“He doesn’t have his certificates, he doesn’t even have his birth certificate with him, for example academic certificates and so on.
“Because Barbados has no prior precedent as far as we are aware of anybody being granted political asylum so he [the Chief Justice] is saying in the circumstances despite the lack of documentation maybe we should still try to do the CSM process and if that fails then to come back and pursue the political asylum avenue.”
For now, Michel, who lives in Christ Church, has been given “indefinite leave to remain pending the political asylum determination”.
The case is to continue in the Supreme Court on Thursday.