Saturday, August 19, 2017

Disgrace over detainees


I welcome the coverage by the Express of August 4 and 8 which highlighted the sordid conditions facing human beings in our despicable Immigration Detention Centre. The situation is disheartening, to say the very least.
Jamaican Sasha Watson ought to be congratulated for successfully initiating legal action against the State, even though she got the paltry sum of $210,000 for such deprivation of her civil liberties and shameful treatment, like being ordered to strip and squat in the presence of strangers. Such are the disgraceful practices in our archaic prison system in 2017.
As a developing nation, we should instead illustrate our approach to the vulnerable by our treatment toward decent foreigners who pose no threat and cause us no harm by simply not qualifying for entry, or overstaying their time.
I am grossly ashamed, as a Trinidadian, that this type of dehumanising treatment exists in my own country toward these helpless travellers—humans merely seeking a better standard of living which Trinidad and Tobago offers compared to other Caribbean countries.
Sadly, many people are left to rot in our detention centre, which in the case of Senegalese Elhadj Gassama exceeds four years simply because at best, like many detainees, he cannot afford a truly competent attorney, nor does the State provide legal aid for such detainees; and worst, the cost of their return ticket back home is unaffordable.
Equally shameful and typical of an abusive situation, Ms Watson was released without of any charges laid against her and without the courtesy of an apology from the mighty little gods representing the mighty State.
How could this possibly happen when Trinidad and Tobago is a signatory to the United Nations Charter on Human Rights which clearly instructs countries on the procedures and practice of harbouring immigration detainees, and of maintaining and upholding their inalienable rights to liberty? Evidently, such training is not given to those entrusted with managing these detainees.
From a public relations standpoint, the National Security Minister appears lost in the vacuity of bureaucracy, so devoid of compassion for those lost in an institution under his care, while claiming “we are working on it”, casually oblivious to the long-standing and heart-rending plight of these detainees repeatedly complaining about unhygienic food and filthy spaces, many left to languish without word of their release, unable to reconnect with loved ones.
The minister ought to immediately execute a new strategy to limit the stay of immigration detainees who, even if they cannot afford their return ticket after trying to secure same, should be deported at the cost of the State. The existing condition is not who we are as a people.
Trevor Hosten
via e-mail