By Eulaba Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): It’s been more than two weeks since 15 individuals of Dominican and Haitian descent have been detained in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis; and Attorney-at-Law, Mr. Craig Tuckett is making three legal claims on the detainees’ behalf.
“I have been retained by them as their attorney to do three things legally for them. 1) Ask for asylum for them to stay in St. Kitts. You all know the present state of affairs in Haiti. Haiti is designated as a failed state by the international community. Even now, the American Government has finally implemented a humanitarian policy; just as they have done for Cubans and Ukraine, they have now done the same for Haitians. So, I am basically asking for asylum for them. 2) To prevent the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis to return them to Haiti, which will be inhumane, because of the state of affairs in Haiti, and finally, ask that the Government give them a six-month stamp on their passports as CARICOM nationals” said Tuckett
Tuckett’s view is that Haiti is a full-fledged CARICOM member state and its people, once they have no criminal issues, should be allowed a mandatory stay of six months when they’ve entered into the jurisdiction of another member state. Tuckett claimed that the Federation is not upholding the revised Treaty Of Chaguaramas.
“The present policy that is being used by St.Kitts and Nevis and other Caribbean countries in regards to a mandatory Visa for Haitians to enter into another CARICOM state is discriminatory” stated Tuckett.
He added, “That’s why the case of Shanique Myrie vs the state of Barbados, which was ruled by the CCJ which has the original jurisdiction to broker or to decide on matters regarding the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas of which St.Kitts and Nevis is a member and have signed to, we should not fulfill these types of discriminatory policies against our brothers and sisters from Haiti.”
The detainees in question arrived on a boat that was anchored off the coast of Gallows Bay, Nevis on the afternoon of February 2, 2023. Two males exited the boat and made their way into Bath Village. They were intercepted following a report made to the police. The men then escorted police to the boat where the other individuals were found.
According to Attorney Craig Tuckett, the group consists of mostly adults between the ages of 18 and 35 who reside in Dominica. He said they were on their way to St. Maarten for shopping, but the vessel which they were aboard encountered some engine problems. The captain, a Dominican fisherman, docked the vessel in Nevis and he and a passenger, who is a mechanic from Haiti went ashore in pursuit of assistance.
“The captain and the passenger were arrested by the police and the other 13 Haitian brothers and sisters were detained in Gingerland Community Center. So, they have been detained up to this point” Tuckett informed.
The captain and Haitian mechanic are remanded at His Majesty’s Prison awaiting trial on Tuesday, February 21 at the Magistrate Court in District C, Nevis. They were charged under the Immigration Act, and are facing fines or imprisonment.
When questioned about the accommodation for the other 13 detainees, Tuckett told a WINN FM reporter that their living conditions are similar to that of a refugee camp, suggesting that the Federation execute the human rights best practices put in place by the United Nations.
“The accommodations are not bad, but not good; meaning that it’s a communal type setting. There is no privacy of course. It’s almost like a refugee camp. That in itself, as we know, is not humane. These are the types of things that the UN (United Nations) has spoken against and we as a nation as part of the United Nations accords, should do our endeavor best to fulfill the human rights initiatives that are expounded [upon] in the various charters of the United Nations” Tuckett expressed.
Tuckett said he has issued letters to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, copied to the Prime Minister, the CARICOM Secretariat, the Caribbean Court of Justice, the United Nations Human Rights Office, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Registrar, the High Court Registrar, the Chief Immigration Officer and the Commissioner of Police.
Haiti continues to experience growing gang violence, out-of-control kidnappings, political instability, anti-government protests, and extreme poverty. The Government of Haiti seems incapable of asserting authority over the widespread criminal activity that is taking place there.
It is believed that the ongoing crisis in the country is forcing some Haitians to seek a better life.
During the recently held CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in The Bahamas, leaders reiterated the need to help Haiti out of its turmoil. There, Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau gave notice that Royal Canadian Navy Vessels will be deployed to Haiti in the coming weeks to conduct surveillance, gather intelligence and maintain a maritime presence off the coast of the country.
Trudeau also expressed the need for long-lasting solutions that will restore order and security, allow for essential aid to reach individuals that urgently need it, and create the appropriate conditions for free and fair elections so that Haitians can live a stable and democratic life.