A decision by the High Court in Trinidad and Tobago to prevent the government from deporting West Africans to their homeland will be used as a yardstick, as the Gaston Browne administration finalizes its decision regarding those who are here.
Governor General Sir Rodney Williams made that disclosure while delivering the Throne Speech on Monday morning; the key feature of the ceremonial opening of the first session of the parliament since the January 18th general elections
Last week, reports emerged, that the High Court in Trinidad had temporarily blocked the Immigration Department from deporting five Cameroonians who arrived in this country last November after fleeing their homeland, fearing they would have been killed by military forces there.
Less than four hours before they were to be placed on a flight to Panama and then back to Cameroon, attorneys petitioned the High Court, asking it to grant an interim injunction preventing the deportations.
Sir Rodney, in his speech, said Antigua and Barbuda is a melting pot of cultures, with a significant number of our adult population comprising citizens from other countries.
He said this diversity, made possible by a flexible but responsible immigration policy, has been a key factor in our country’s progress and exceptional economic growth since 1976.
Rodney said while it was the government’s initial understanding that the West African brothers and sisters were visiting as tourists, it has now become apparent that some of these visitors may be seeking asylum in the Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda
“My government notes with interest the decision of the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago, less than a week ago, to prevent the Trinidad and Tobago Government from deporting the West Africans back to their homeland. My government further notes that the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) played a significant role in stopping the deportations”
“My government is required to consider this High Court decision, as the role of the UNHCR, before making its final decision. My government has a history of demonstrating its care for—and concern over—the more vulnerable, defenseless, and persecuted,” he said.
Sir Rodney ended the topic on the matter, saying that the government is committed to protecting all residents from exploitation and harsh treatment and would never have the West African brothers and sisters dwell illegally in the shadows; nor would it allow the kith and kin to be subjected to exploitation and harsh treatment by those who may seek to create victims.
“My government has extended amnesty four times over the past eight years to immigrants who failed to maintain lawful status, and no foreign national, except for criminals, should fear deportation. The Attorney General, a highly capable and experienced legal professional, is leading efforts to find a reasonable solution to this complex challenge,” he said.
According to Rodney, the ministerial mandate given to this key member of the Cabinet, the Attorney General, covers the important areas of legal affairs, public safety, immigration, and labour, all of which determine the state of the homeland and border security, the welfare and productivity of the workforce and the status of our visitors and residents who choose to make our nation their home.
“Few would disagree with the submission that these factors also contribute to a nation’s economic development. My government, therefore, applauds all policymakers and professionals who have been serving in these areas”.