ALL but one of the claims made against the Barbados government by Jamaican national Shanique Myrie were shot down by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) yesterday, as the court delivered its judgment on allegations by Myrie that she was discriminated against by immigration officials in Barbados.
In the end, Myrie, 25, was awarded a total of Bds$77,240 (TT$232,000) of the Bds$1 million (TT$3.2 million) she had initially sought. She was awarded cost for the money spent on having an attorney represent her in the case.
The judgment was delivered by president of the CCJ Sir Denis Byron at the CCJ’s headquarters, Henry Street, Port of Spain. He was one of a seven-judge panel also comprising Justices Adrian Saunders, Jacob Wit, Rolston Nelson, Winston Anderson, David Hayton and Desiree Bernard.
Myrie had filed a lawsuit against the Barbados government, claiming that on March 14, 2011, she was made to undergo a painful and humiliating body cavity search by a Barbadian border official upon her arrival at the Sir Grantley Adams International Airport from Jamaica.
She had also alleged she was kept in an unsanitary detention cell, denied entry into the country and was discriminated against solely because of her nationality.
During the hearing, neither Myrie, her attorneys nor attorneys for the Barbados government were in court. They were, however, able to view the proceedings via video link.
The only claim upheld by the court was that Myrie had a right to freedom of movement within the Caribbean community without any form of harassment, based on the combined effect of Article 45 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC).
“Since the right to definite entry conferred by the 2007 Conference Decision was a critical element in the case, the court considered it important to explain certain substantive and procedural entitlements associated with the right.
“The court explained that the right is part of the broader concept of free movement of Caricom nationals within the Community and that concept entails the right of Community nationals to have unrestricted access to, and movement within, the jurisdiction of the member states subject to public interest considerations.
“The 2007 Conference Decision was another step in furthering the fundamental goal and clarifying the right to free movement as it made clear that every Community national is entitled to definite entry of six months upon arrival in another member state,” said Byron.
He said the only reason a Community national should be denied entry into a member state was if they posed a threat to do something prohibited by national law. And even if this were so, that individual had to be given the opportunity to consult with an attorney or contact a family member, with the member state also having to give promptly and in writing reasons for refusing entry to a Community national.
In this case, Byron said this was not done.
“The State of Barbados justified its denial of entry to Ms Myrie on the basis that she had told lies to immigration officials as to identity of her host in Barbados, but the court found that in this case Barbados did not discharge its burden to justify the limitation placed on Ms Myrie’s right to entry, as it produced insufficient evidence to establish that she posed such a threat as properly to deem her undesirable,” said Byron.
In dismissing the other claims, the judge said based on the evidence presented by Myrie and Jamaica, the court was of the view they were not capable of raising a prima facie case that Myrie was in fact a victim of discrimination.
“Faced with the contradictory versions of events presented, the court gave very careful and anxious consideration to all the material before it, given the seriousness of the allegations,” said Byron.
He added that given the circumstances surrounding the case, the court expects Barbados will interpret and apply its domestic laws liberally so as to harmonise them with Community law or, if that was not possible, to have it altogether altered.