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Rude awakening at Immigration
Recently, a case involving a national in the Prime Minister’s constituency, Robert Ramnarine was highlighted in this column. Mr Ramnarine who is married to a Portuguese national for over 19 years and with a teenage daughter born in Trinidad, had encountered difficulties with the sponsorship of his wife. After publication of the case, Mr and Mrs Ramnarine were sent letters by the Immigration Department for documents as well as to proceed with a medical examination which was completed. At a recent appointment at the Immigration Office, San Fernando, the couple was given a “rude awakening” by a female Immigration Officer who apparently did not review the case in its entirety.
This Immigration Officer took them to the Investigation Sections, where Mrs Ramnarine became very intimidated and broke down in tears. Fortunately for the humane instincts, initiative and comprehension of Investigations Officer, Mr Andrew Ragoonath their fears and concerns were alleviated. Furthermore, Mr Ragoonath communicated with the Honorary Consul of Portugal in Trinidad and Tobago, and Mrs Ramnarine will be receiving her Portuguese document very shortly. Officer Ragoonath must be publicly commended for his handling of the situation. Immigration Act Caters for Cases involving Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds Section 6 (c) of the Immigration Act makes provisions for the sponsorship of a spouse. This is a matter of not only family class reunification, but is one in which there are valid and existing humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
For example, if Mr Ramnarine’s wife after spending 19 years in Trinidad and Tobago had to leave this country, what kind of unusual, undeserved and disproportionate hardships would accrue to Mr Ramnarine and his daughter? This is not an alleged marriage of convenience case whereby one gets married to secure permanent residence for Trinidad and Tobago. This is a genuine and legal marriage which occurred in Canada, and the only item missing for prompt processing of this case was a valid passport. Furthermore, while there are no available carefully delineated guidelines and policies in any immigration manuals (if there are any) for the processing family class applications, many immigration officers need to be very sensitive, educated and trained on constitutional and administrative procedures, as well as understanding the impact of international human rights instruments on family class applications.
In addition, one of the major challenges facing the department is the exodus of over 30 senior officers with over 900 years of experience, and who were replaced by very junior officers with accelerated promotion, but lacking in skills, knowledge, experience, and the humane factor. UN Convention on Refugees Trinidad and Tobago is also a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees (1951) and its 1967 Protocol for the past decade, yet, this important piece of legislation is not yet marinated in what should have been a new and revised Immigration Act. At best, the Living Waters Community, a non-governmental organisation, under the vibrant leadership of Rhonda Maingot continues to assist people with the help of the UN, those who may have fled their countries of origin for one of more of the reasons outlined in the UN Convention.
There is also no duly constituted tribunal or board to deal with such matters. Again, any human trafficking legislation must be incorporated in the Immigration Act. The minister responsible for Immigration must move beyond dotting his ‘I’s and crossing his ‘Ts’. There are also current cases of alleged international child abductions warranting the intervention of police, and for which his department may not be adequately prepared. Recommendations submitted by the IOM in its Migration Management Assessment of Trinidad and Tobago, 2005, mirrored those presented by this column in 2000 to former prime minister, Basdeo Panday and are yet to be implemented, just like the computerisation of all cases, be they student permits, work permits, extensions, permanent residence and citizenship. Organised Crime Intelligence Trinidad and Tobago is also a party to the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its protocols, especially the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
From a wide variety of sources and media investigative reports, instead of preventing, suppressing and punishing those actively involved in this illicit trade, we tend to foster, encourage, cover-up, because of the dollars involved and the nexus between officialdom and the private sectors. One would have thought that our collective intelligences dealing with the various activities of transnational offending would have brought a greater number of people before the courts given the widespread availability and use of guns, and various modes of shipping drugs. Would anything concrete emanate from the recent discoveries of marijuana shipments at Point Lisas? Maybe Brigadier Alfonso and Customs Chief, Fitzroy John can shed some light.
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