Jamaica-Barbados immigration row could go international

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday March 30, 2011 – The attorney for the Jamaican woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted and verbally abused by a Barbadian immigration officer two weeks ago says he will take the matter as far as the International Court of Human Rights if necessary to get his client justice.

Jamaican lawyer Anthony Hylton, a former foreign affairs minister, gave that indication in an interview with the Daily Nation newspaper in Barbados.

In the article published today, Hylton said he would prove that 22-year-old Shanique Myrie was telling the truth about what happened on March 14 when she arrived at the Grantley Adams International Airport.

Myrie claimed that a female immigration officer at the airport took her into a room and instructed her to bend over and, using gloved fingers, began to probe her vagina, all the while making anti-Jamaican comments. The woman said the officer told her she hated Jamaicans and accused them of coming to Barbados to “either steal people’s man or bring drugs here”.

She said her luggage was also searched and she was placed overnight in a holding area at the airport and sent back to Jamaica the following day.

“It did happen, and we will prove it. We know the hurdles in the law and we will get around it,” Hylton told the newspaper, adding that his client was traumatized and would get counseling.

Barbados’ Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator Maxine McClean, has dismissed Myrie’s allegations, saying that immigration and customs authorities investigated the claims of abuse and found them to be baseless. Parliamentary Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, Harry Husbands, also said that the woman was suspected of being a victim of human trafficking and was therefore denied entry.

But Hylton accused the Barbados Government of “trying to put Ms Myrie on trial and destroy her credibility”.

Meantime, Jamaica’s Public Defender Earl Witter, who has been asked to investigate the matter, has criticised McClean for saying that Myrie’s claim was baseless.

He told the Daily Nation that instead of making a definitive judgment , McClean should have heard evidence from both sides before concluding that the Jamaican’s story was a fabrication.

The matter is expected to get some attention at the three-day 18th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States which begins in Belize today.

Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Dr Kenneth Baugh, said earlier this week that the issue of mistreatment of Jamaicans in neighbouring Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries would be addressed. He and his Barbadian counterpart are expected to have face-to-face talks about the Myrie allegations.

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