Jamaican broadcaster Johnny Daley says harassed by T&T Immigration, Customs officers

(Jamaica Observer) Despite claims by Trinidad and Tobago officials that Jamaicans are not being singled out for bad treatment when they arrive at the Piarco Airport, popular broadcaster and comedian Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley is claiming to have been mistreated by airport officials.

Daley vented his anger at the shabby treatment on the social network website Facebook on Tuesday and said he felt like a criminal even though he broke no immigration law and was not in possession of any contraband or banned items.

In November, the denial of 13 Jamaicans who were forced to sit on a hard bench, taunted by airport officials and sent back to Jamaica drew the ire of many Jamaicans who called for a ban on Trinidadian products.

Christopher 'Johnny' Daley
Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley

The issue forced Trinidadian Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to send a delegation, headed by her foreign minister Winston Dookeran, to hold diplomatic talks with his Jamaican counterpart A J Nicholson.

Dookeran then promised to allow for free travel into that country but his fellow parliamentarian and Trinidadian security minister, Gary Griffith, shot down his promise and vowed to keep out ‘undesirables’.

Griffith said immigration matters fell under his ministry and only he could make such pronouncements. He said Trinidad was not a shopping mall.

Daley, in his Facebook post, said: “I had my worst travel experience entering the twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago last night and I’m sorry to say it but Jamaicans are targeted and profiled because it happened to me and my wife.

“A J Nicholson, Mr Minister of Foreign Affairs, there is much work to be done. We were suspects the minute we walked up to immigration. Without scanning our passports the Indian-looking officer took up a phone and called someone to indicate that she felt suspicious. Whilst on the phone, with the receiver by her ears, she then asked a few questions as to the purpose of our trip. She was told. She then asked if we were actually married and was responded to. The officer then pointed out that I had several work permits (for other countries in my passport) to the person on the phone, as if that was her reason for being suspicious. She then scanned our books and asked us to sit across the way and wait.

“After fifteen minuets or so she called us over and handed our passports and sent us through. If the checks had ended there this note would not be written but as soon as we got to our bags and entered the Customs line it was clear that the Customs enforcement team that was waiting was prepped to look out for the suspects, ‘aka Jamaican criminals’.”

Daley said that he and his wife were the only ones searched by hand, and were asked to break open one of the beef patties they were taking for their hosts, after which the officer broke several pieces of the ginger they were asked to take by their hosts, and squeezed the harddough bread so hard that “it lost its shape”.

The interrogation, Daley said, continued by the Customs officer, while two policemen in plain clothes stood by. He was, among other things, asked how long he had been in Jamaica, if he had a criminal record, his travel history.

Daley wrote: “She seemed quite disappointed and annoyed that she found nothing alarming in our luggage and then she did the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever experienced. She asked if I was wearing two trousers (remember I live in the tropics ) to which my response was an obvious no. Without hesitation she instructed me to go to a room with the two thug-looking men (police). I shook my head and reluctantly entered the tiny room. One thug stood at the door the other asked me to lift my shirt up. I did since I had my undershirt on. He gave me a pat down, searched the seam of my pants and then told me to step out.

“This has never happened before in all my years of travelling, not even in the United States, a country that is constantly having to protect its borders from terrorists. It was humiliating.

“[Minister] Nicholson, there was no respect shown to me and my wife. The Trinidad airport personnel seem to personally enjoy dragging us through the mud of their system. Suffice to say we barely made the connecting flight to Tobago and got attitude from the Caribbean airline staff on the ground for being late for boarding. Oh, and they left our luggage, by the way. Fortunately our hosts in Tobago could drop a few names and it was later delivered.

“My fellow Jamaicans, please have all your ducks in a row and your T’s crossed if you need to travel to Trinidad and Tobago because we are being targeted. They had no good reason to treat my wife and I the way they did so I can only assume it’s our nationality that was the issue. It’s as if the immigration and Customs personnel have replaced The word Jamaican with criminal, so please be careful.”

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