(Jamaica Observer) Yet another Jamaican woman has claimed that authorities in the Eastern Caribbean island of Barbados subjected her to degrading treatment so they could search her body cavities for illegal drugs.
The woman, 29-year-old Avia James, said she was detained at the Grantley Adams Airport when she arrived there on a flight from Jamaica on the evening of Monday, September 24.
“A policeman took me into a room and ordered me to strip because he wanted to see if I had coke (cocaine) in my bottom and my vagina. I said, ‘I am not stripping, so I don’t know what you are going to do today’,” James told the Jamaica Observer last week.
The obviously still enraged woman said her ordeal began when a cop with a sniffer dog walked by as she stood inside the airport. She said that she jumped because the animal startled her. By the time she reached the immigration counter a female officer began questioning her as to her reason for coming to Barbados.
She said she gave the officer the name and contact of the man who was supposed to pick her up at the airport, but that did not satisfy the woman who then referred her to a male immigration officer.
“The woman said all Jamaicans do is come and mash up their lives and take away their man,” James claimed.
Despite her pleas for the officials to allow her Barbados contact to come and identify her, James said the officers never budged. “In my understanding visitors to that country are identified by the persons they are visiting if there is any doubt about their character and if there is any truth to a visitor’s claim of their contact person. In my case, my contact person was not allowed to come inside the airport and identify me. He was told by a very rude immigration person that he would be able to talk to me (the next day),” she said.
She said both officers removed their name tags before they dealt with her, in an attempt — she now believes — to prevent her from being able to report them.
“The man then called the police and two male police officers came and took me into a room,” she said.
James said the cops then emptied all the contents of her hand luggage on the floor and began rummaging through them. “He took my purse and removed everything from it. I had US$250 and J$200 in the purse. When he gave it back to me, my money and my debit card were gone. I demanded my money back and he said: “You s..t! You think I want your (expletive) $250? You Jamaicans are s..t!” James alleged.
She claimed the cop threw the Jamaican banknotes on the ground and told her, “I hate you Jamaicans. Don’t leave your crosses money in our airport.”
She added that she carried a bun and a tin of cheese for her friend and the bun was broken into many pieces as the cop searched for contraband. The cop, she said, also cut open the tin of cheese.
James claimed that after he came up empty-handed, the policeman then searched another bag she was travelling with and took more money that was stashed away there.
“He again threw everything on the ground and took out US$200 that someone gave me to buy some shoes. I had to pay back the person when I came back to Jamaica. I want back my money,” she said. James said the cop told her that he knew Spanish Town and Portmore in St Catherine and that he would soon be visiting Jamaica and would find out where she lived. She said the Barbadian threatened her, saying that he was friends with a glamorous former crime-fighter and they would be coming for her.
“I tell him seh the two of dem a thief,” she said.
James said the policeman also accused her of being an exotic dancer based on a picture he saw on her phone.
“I have never danced go-go in my life,” she declared.
She said the cop then took her to a room and ordered her to strip and when she refused he attempted to physically coerce her, but she fought back.
“He again ordered me to strip and threatened to lock me up if I didn’t follow his orders. He said if I went to the lock-up I would be forced to strip. I said ‘anything ah anything b…. boy’,” James told the Sunday Observer.
She said that was when the cop dragged her by the shoulder and shoved her into a small holding cell.
James said the filthy conditions inside the dank, cold room were unbearable.
“The toilet was not clean to sit on. When you turn on the pipe some stinking [thing] come up outta the bath. The sheet on the little bed scratch you,” she said.
While inside the holding cell, James said she met another Jamaican woman who had been imprisoned for six months who also complained that she was relieved of US currency by a Barbadian policeman who searched her.
After spending the night in detention, James said her non-monetary belongings were returned to her and she was put on a plane and sent back to Jamaica despite the fact that she had not been found with any contraband. She added that it cost her more than $34,000 to purchase her ticket, only to be harassed and turned away.
“I have never carried drugs in my entire life and I have been to a number of other Caribbean islands without being subject to this kind of treatment. They treated me like a pig and locked me up for no reason. If there is supposed to be free movement in the region by CARICOM nationals why was I refused entry and treated like a common criminal when I did nothing wrong?” James asked.
It is a question to which she is seeking answers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade where she went — subsequent to her interview with the Jamaica Observer — to report her ordeal and seek redress.
The ministry has indicated that it has received a letter of complaint from James.
“Miss James’ letter was forwarded to our sister embassy in Barbados and we are awaiting a response. That is the first step,” Head of Public Relations and Media Affairs at the ministry Ann-Margaret Lim told the Observer.
Jamaicans and Guyanese nationals have, for years, complained that they have been singled out for harsh treatment whenever they arrive in Barbados.
James’ story comes more than a year after another Jamaican woman, Shanique Myrie, accused a female immigration officer in Barbados of finger-raping her at the Grantley Adams Airport before she was locked up in a room overnight and sent back to Jamaica the following day.
Myrie has taken her case to the Caribbean Court of Justice to seek redress.
Another Jamaican woman, who was arrested, charged and convicted of attempting to smuggle four pounds of marijuana into that country, said she was raped by two male cops while she was in jail, and accused a female officer of aiding and abetting the cops in sexually abusing her.
Two of the cops, Constable Jonathan Barrow and Woman Constable Melanie Denny, 25, have since been arrested and charged.
Barrow faces a charge of serious indecency, while Denny is facing a charge of aiding and abetting. Both are on bail and the case is to be mentioned later this year.
Another policeman who allegedly raped the woman is yet to be arrested. He is suspected to have fled the island.