A Guyanese woman who was believed to be a victim of human trafficking in Barbados is said to have returned here after her case sparked controversy on the island over how it was handled.
It appears that the woman had been deported from Barbados in 2017 but managed to re-enter this year using forged documents.
The case led to Barbadian Home Affairs Minister Edmund Hinkson releasing a detailed statement yesterday on the circumstances of the case. The statement was posted on the Barbados Nation website.
He said that as a result of several complaints regarding violence and prostitution, a joint Police and Immigration operation was conducted at certain locations in Bridgetown.
“During the operation, a Guyanese national was among those apprehended. She was found in a particular bar clad only in a man’s shirt. She ran from Officers and was located hiding in the cellar of the bar. She was not in possession of any means of identification and was detained by the Police for further investigations to be conducted.
“After the investigations, she was released into the custody of the Immigration Officers to be detained in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 Subparagraph (8) of the Immigration Act, Chapter 190 of the Laws of Barbados. The departmental records indicated that she arrived in the Barbados on August 5, 2018, and requested 30 days as a visitor, but was granted six months in accordance with the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
“On further checks it was revealed that this particular female Guyanese national has a distinct resemblance to a Guyanese national by another name who was previously deported from Barbados on October 9, 2017, on the signature of a deportation order by the then Minister of State in charge of Immigration, Darcy Boyce.
“This lady according to the records arrived in Barbados on that particular occasion on April 30, 2017, requesting 21 days in Barbados, but in fact was granted six months as a visitor. She had previously entered Barbados. As a result of several complaints received, a warrant was executed by the Police and Immigration Officers at a bar in Bridgetown and she was found in that bar scantily clad and working as an exotic dancer in contravention of Section 17(1) of the Immigration Act. She was subsequently deported on October 9, 2017, in accordance with Section 13 (6) of the Immigration Act”, the minister’s statement said.
Subsequent to the police operation on November 8, 2018, Hinkson said that she was interviewed by members of the Investigation Unit and admitted that she was the same person who had been deported from Barbados on October 9, 2017.
“Subsequent examinations by the Police Force’s hand writing experts of her various signatures on travel documents on her multiple entries into Barbados found that it is extremely highly probable that the Guyanese female national who was deported last year is one and the same person who is the subject of this episode. `Extremely highly probable’ means in this case that the conclusion is very near identification with reasonable certainty.
“She expressed fear for her life and that of her family and declined to reveal any further information regarding her entry into Barbados or the acquisition of the passport in another name. She entered Barbados on this occasion with a passport other than what she entered on last year when she was deported.
“She, however, indicated that she wanted to return home to Guyana as soon as possible. She was not in possession of her passport. However, she was allowed, as her human and legal right entail, to contact a friend via telephone who she stated was in possession of the passport”, the minister said.
He added that while in conversation with that particular individual, members of the Investigation Unit who were nearby overheard her telling the individual that she admitted her real identity to the Immigration Department. The individual to whom she was speaking was heard berating her for doing so. It was agreed that the passport would be brought to the Immigration Department at the Airport in order to facilitate her departure from Barbados to her homeland. This did not happen.
The minister said ”Male visitors subsequently visited this Guyanese national and subsequent to those visits, she appeared uneasy and agitated and in fact recanted her admission. Based on her change in behaviour, it is strongly believed that some form of manipulation was exerted on her by these visitors to her.
“Given her expression of fear for her life and that of her family and the withholding of her passport, the Human Trafficking Unit of the Royal Barbados Police Force was informed and is presently conducting investigations”.
The Consulate of Guyana was also informed of this situation.
The minister said that it is important to note the following provisions of Section 21 of the Immigration Act Cap 190.
21 (7) A person against whom a deportation order is made shall leave Barbados in accordance with the terms of the order and shall thereafter, so long as the order is in force, remain out of Barbados. He said that the woman had no right to enter Barbados again since she was the subject of a deportation order made in October last year. That order has not been revoked by any minister of Immigration.
The minister further said that during the period that this Guyanese national was in detention at the airport, several arrangements were made for her to travel back to Guyana.
“However, she refused bluntly to go to the aircraft on each occasion. This is important because an airline is not going to take someone who is resisting on the airline because of possible security issues on the flight.
“Last Friday, November 16, I as the Minister responsible for Immigration instructed that she be detained at a secure location in accordance with the authority given to me under Section 22(1) and (2) of the Immigration Act. She was in fact detained along with three other female Colombians, who were pending deportation as well.
“On Saturday, November 17, this Guyanese national was examined by a medical doctor practicing in Barbados and was found to be medically fit. She consequently agreed to travel back to Guyana on the same day. She was accompanied to the airport by personnel, including a female immigration officer and this was yesterday, Sunday, November 18. She was witnessed by several persons, including airport personnel and Immigration Officers, willingly boarding the flight. There was no issue of resistance or her dragging and kicking to board the flight. Had that been the case she would not have been allowed on the flight.
“She eventually travelled on a Barbados Emergency Passport along with the copy bio-page of the passport on which she last entered Barbados. These are the facts of the case”, the minister stated.
He pointed out that Barbados is party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Further this Convention has been enacted into the Laws of Barbados so a person who for the purpose of exploiting, and by exploiting it includes by abusing their position of vulnerability; fraud, deception and such a person who recruits someone into Barbados is guilty of trafficking in persons and is liable to a fine of $1 million or 25 years in prison, or both.
“You would see from the weight of the fine – $1 million, or imprisonment of 25 years or both, that the Parliament of Barbados as it should, takes very, very seriously the issue of human trafficking”, the minister added.
The minister asserted: “I say no more other than a word to the wise is being sent. The police of Barbados have the authority to investigate human trafficking and are obliged to do that under the laws of Barbados and in pursuance of the international obligations of Barbados under this United Nations Convention.
“I as Minister of Immigration am sworn to comply with the Laws of Barbados. The Immigration Department, which falls under my Ministry of Home Affairs, together with the police, are also sworn to carry out their duties in accordance with the Laws of Barbados.
“I am fully satisfied that this is what the officials of the Police Force and the Immigration Department have done pursuant to the arrests which were made arising from that operation two Thursdays ago. We will not be threatened or abused in any way from complying with our duties under the Laws of Barbados in our various capacities and in seeking to ensure that the Laws of Barbados are complied with, and that issues relating to human trafficking are as far as possible removed from the territory of this country. I thank you”.