(Trinidad Express) The treatment of persons at the Immigration Detention Centre is heartbreaking and inhumane says Khafra Kambon, chairman of the Emancipation Support Group.
He said he has been calling repeatedly for National Security Minister Edmund Dillon to meet with the group but to date there has been no response from the Minister.
“We have sought meetings with Minister Dillon, we have written, we have called we have not been able to get a meeting with Minister Dillon so far. So that creates an additional problem because then the Minister finds himself of not being properly informed on what is taking place and there is plenty irregular things being done by some of the authorities in immigration so if the Minister does not inform himself by talking to us who are stakeholders then he is putting himself at a very grave disadvantage in terms of handling the situation,” said Khambon.
Khambon said there are persons detained for more than four years and some have gone crazy while a couple have attempted suicide.
He said when the group held meetings with ministers before they were able to work together to around matters going to court and to also make intervention to help on a case by case basis.
“It is very heartbreaking because you cannot treat human being like that. Indefinite detention is considered a form of torture on other jurisdictions,” said Khambon.
“A lot of abuse is taking place in this system, the stories are unbelievable as to what some of these people are subjected to. There are couple people who have tripped off under those conditions because it’s a real torture when you have no pathway to get out and day after day you are hoping for something to happen and it affects your mind and there are people who have suffered mentally in there,” he said.
“There are a couple people who have attempted suicide and we have had to fight for people to be given proper medical attention, psychiatric attention, all those battles we have had to fight for people,” he added.
He said the officers and employees at the centre themselves have complained about the squalid conditions.
Khambon said lawyers have initiated legal action to help a couple detainees but the process is long and costly. HE said the group needs more lawyers to come on board and assist to get these people help.
He said further that some detainees face discrimination from officers.
“We have said for all the years that we have been involved in this that there is a clear pattern of discrimination against Africans from the continent of Africa,” he said.
He said people from Guyana and Jamaica are next on the list in terms of poor treatment from immigration authorities.
Khambon said the centre up to recently was overcrowded and it is an injustice that people continue to be held there for years with no answers.
He noted the case of Paula Nicole Haddaway who wrote an open letter to Dillon seeking help for her husband Nigerian national Time Hunter Okoedo Kings who has been detained for more than four years. Haddaway has five children with Kings and is left to struggle to look after them on her own for all the years he has been imprisoned.
Kings was taken into custody in 2013 and released 16 months later after numerous appeals. In 2014, Haddaway said she made numerous attempts to effect her husband’s regularisation process and also wrote to former National Security Ministers with no help being given.
She claims that while at the detention centre, her husband was beaten with batons by six officers.
“He sustained severe injuries to his head, and his five 5 months of freedom saw me taking him from one health centre to another, and to a doctor, because of the pains he was getting in his head as a result of the blows,” she stated.
Haddaway said her husband was left sick after and in December 2014 after there were false reports of him being a fugitive, he went to the authorities with his lawyer and since then he has been detained with no hope of release or no word on what will happen to him.
Haddaway stated that a year ago she got a call from the National Security Ministry promising to resolve my family problem soonest. It’s been over a year since they made that promise and absolutely nothing has been done.