The Facts Of My Deportation From Antigua And Barbuda
By Lennox Linton
On Wednesday 13th, June 2007, sometime before 12 noon, six immigration officers showed up at my home in Upper Gambles and requested to see my passport.
I advised them that I entered the country in January of this year with a CARICOM Skilled Nationals Certificate from the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica and on February 5th, 2007, I was given six months ending August 5th, 2007 to stay in the country.
The officer in charge of the group of six examined my passport and then advised that their supervisor had directed that I be brought to his office immediately. I asked whether I could have an appointment with the supervisor sometime in the afternoon since I had to pick up my two 6 year old kids from school at 1.00 p.m. They refused the request. I then asked for time to take a bath. They agreed. They also allowed me time to make a phone call to my wife – a national of Dominica – who is employed with Port Services Limited at the V. C. Bird International Airport, so that she could make arrangements to pick up the kids from school.
I was driven from my home by an Immigration Officer accompanied by 5 of his colleagues in what I presumed to be a bus belonging to the Immigration Department to the Immigration Office in St. John’s and escorted to the office of the supervisor – a gentleman by the name of Melvin James.
He told me in the presence of four other officers that he was carrying out instructions from his superiors who had determined that I should be sent out of the country as soon as possible. I asked why. He simply repeated the statement that he was acting on the instructions of his superiors and that I would have to leave on the next available flight. He asked whether I needed to go home to pick up some things. I was told this was a courtesy that was being extended to me. I accepted the courtesy and was then driven back home by the same officer who led the mission to my home accompanied this time by three of his colleagues.
At home, I packed a few essentials in a travel bag, secured the house and left with the Immigration Officers for the Airport. They had advised that I would be required to purchase my ticket, failing which they would purchase it in which case the action against me would then become a deportation.
At the airport, I was accompanied to the LIAT ticket counter where I purchased a one-way ticket and checked in for flight #557 scheduled to depart for Dominica at 3.15 pm. I was then escorted to the counter where I paid the departure tax and then passed all the travel documents to the Immigration Officer at his request.
I was then taken to the Immigration Office at the airport and told that I would have to wait there until it was time to board the flight. At all material times, there was at least one Immigration Officer, watching my every move, no doubt to ensure that I did not attempt to escape. My passport was confiscated and held by the Immigration Officers throughout the entire episode until I passed the LIAT gate en route to boarding the plane. It took a while but the reality eventually sunk in that I was actually in law enforcement custody.
In the Immigration Office, an officer with the surname Emmanuel introduced himself to me as the Head of Immigration at the Airport. He asked whether anyone told me why I was being put out of the country. I said no. He then said it was because they “suspected” that I was working. There was no indication who my suspected employer was, in what capacity I was suspected to be employed or the location of my suspected place of employment.
I was not given any opportunity to confirm or deny the suspicions nor was there any attention paid to the legitimate expectation of being able to work in Antigua and Barbuda arising out the fact that the CARICOM Skilled Nationals Certificate issued to me by the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica provides me (as a CARICOM Treaty obligation) with work permit exempt status in the member territories of CARICOM.
While waiting for the LIAT flight, I received a call from the Prime Minister of Dominica Honorable Roosevelt Skerrit. He asked for an explanation of the difficulty he heard I was experiencing in Antigua and Barbuda. After relating to him what had transpired, he advised that he was going to get in touch with Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer to have the matter resolved. A few minutes later he called back to say that he had spoken to Mr. Spencer who had agreed to take up the matter with the Chief Immigration Officer.
Shortly thereafter, I advised the Immigration Officer in charge of the team assigned to hold me in custody, that since the matter was been addressed at the level of the Prime Ministers of both countries, it may be prudent to arrange for me to leave on a later flight to give the prime ministerial discussions some time to come to fruition.
He confirmed that the Chief Immigration Officer was in a meeting with the Prime Minister but advised that there was no later flight and if there was no word from the meeting by the time the flight was ready to depart then he would have no choice but to proceed as planned and ensure that I leave.
I assume that he heard nothing further since he hustled me through the LIAT gate and unto flight #557 at approximately 3.10. The flight left for Dominica at 3.20.
On arrival in Dominica I noticed two stamps from the Immigration Authority in Antigua and Barbuda which had been placed in my passport behind my back.
One stamp dated June 13, 2007 cancelled “without prejudice” my previously granted stay in the country until August 5th, 2007. The other stamp also bearing the date of June 13th, 2007, indicated “employment prohibited”.
I have been living in Antigua and Barbuda continuously from April 11th, 2004 when I accepted an offer of employment from Observer Radio Limited which came to an end on December 4th, 2004.
My wife and two children have been living with me in Antigua since July 2005. The children are completing their second year at St. John’s Catholic Primary.
Barbados Free Press received this article from a reader. It has been published online by many websites including The Dominican.net.