(Barbados Nation) There is no truth to a report by a Jamaican woman who claimed she was finger-searched before being denied entry into Barbados last week.
Government is however planning a high-level meeting with the Jamaican High Commissioner to Trinidad to try to prevent any major fallout between the two countries as a result of the media hype surrounding the incident.
At a Press conference yesterday, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Maxine McClean made it “absolutely clear that a thorough investigation had been carried out by the Immigration and Customs departments into a report that had been carried in the Jamaican Press suggesting that Shanique Samantha Myrie had been finger-raped by Immigration officers after she arrived on Barbadian soil on March 14”.
The story made headlines in Jamaica, and McClean confirmed to reporters attending the briefing at Government Headquarters that Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ken Baugh had written to her seeking an urgent investigation into the matter.
After three days of investigations, however, McClean told reporters:“There is absolutely no truth to a story carried in a Jamaican newspaper on Thursday, March 24, that a female citizen of that country was body-searched by Immigration officers on arrival at the Grantley Adams International Airport.”
In a prepared statement, she added: “Chief Immigration Officer Ms Erine Griffith has refuted this allegation made in the Jamaica Observer. She has confirmed that her department and Customs ‘have carried out extensive investigations and the claims were baseless’.”
With regard to the correspondence between herself and her Jamaican counterpart over the past couple of days – parts of which she read to the media – she said Government had only yesterday received an official complaint.
She noted as well that the Jamaican authorities had said that since the report was carried in the Jamaican Press, the authorities in Kingston had reported more complaints – all of which Government would be prepared to investigate once requested by the Jamaican government.
In the interim, she has invited Trinidadian-based High Commissioner to Jamaica Sharon Saunders to a meeting to discuss the publicized incident, as well as the wider immigration issue between the two Caribbean nations.
As far as Immigration was concerned, she noted that of the more than 54 000 Jamaicans who flew into Barbados between January 2008 and the end of 2010, just over 900 had been refused entry.
Other statistics she shared showed that 25 Jamaicans had been deported from the island in 2010 and seven so far this year.
On this score, the immigration chief said that those denied entry did not meet certain criteria, while most of those deported had been involved in drug-related activity.
McClean pointed out that in Myrie’s case, eyebrows were raised after she first spoke of spending her planned two-week stay with a female friend and then changed that story to say it was a male friend with whom she intended to stay.
She said that both Immigration and police officers interviewed Myrie, but never once was she searched – only her baggage.
McClean said the other two people on the same flight as Myrie were interviewed at the same time “and were in a position to see exactly what occurred”.