Letter to Editor
Wednesday, 11 July 2012 02:30
By Antiguan Non National
Dear Editor. It was with utter sadness and disappointment that I read an article entitled “Detention Center Opens in Antigua” on Caribarena.com and the Antigua Observer dated July 10, 2013.
The authorities, including the Hon. Minister Errol Cort and the Chief Immigration Officer Mr. Ivor Walker both expressed appreciation for this vision of a facility, but I would like to say here that my vision is that this will turn around and condemn Antigua & Barbuda.
There are only a few Caribbean countries that have an actual Immigration Detention Center including Trinidad & Tobago and now Antigua & Barbuda.
The other countries have seen it fit for whatever reason to just detain violators of the immigration policies at their police stations, etc., and to ensure speedy deportations or allow voluntary returns.
Antigua and Barbuda is a small nation and the majority of its citizens have chosen to live in other countries like the Virgin Islands, USA, and the UK. Many of these started out illegally, and many still do live illegally in some of these countries. Also, many Antiguan females have chosen to birth their babies in North American countries, especially the USA, to get better benefits for their children.
So from a moral standpoint, the pleasure that these officials are getting from the new “prison in disguise” facility (for that is exactly what it is), would not have been welcomed by their own nationals living illegally in other countries.
If, on the other hand, the officials are seeking to reach the so-called international development standard index by having a “humane” detention center as they are stating, there are a lot of other areas of development that could be concentrated on instead of looking to imprison innocent persons who have committed no crime.
The number of innocent, hard-working persons that will be placed in this facility will be pronounced and just like in every other detention center, we will hear of the rapes, assaults both verbal and physical and the further injustices that will be committed against the foreigners.
In fact, speaking about foreigners, it will be the usual suspects that will mainly be housed there – the Guyanese and the Jamaicans, the same set of black Caribbean people who are the ones we see lining up trying to get their time regularized not the Chinese, not the white Europeans or Americans, but the black, indigenous Caribbean people.
The same Caribbean that we speak of coming together in the CSME, the same single space area, is further being divided by what I consider as backward measures because they are not progressive to bring this Caribbean as one.
It is only left now for the Guyanese to start opening up detention centers for the expected flow of business when the oil boom takes place, and the rest of the Caribbean seeks to flock there to do business and create business opportunities in every shape and form. The same will apply to every Caribbean country as well with whatever fortune that nation is fortunate to get.
It seems that we will never learn or able to achieve the things we can as one Caribbean single market space as we seek to divide, isolate and imprison our own people.
There is no doubt that every country should seek to curtail its immigration process but the fact is that no country can ever stop the immigration process.
People have always and will always move to areas where they feel that their lot in lives can be better; it is ingrained in Man to do so. Just as the Honorable Minister’s father, a former native of Guyana did when he came to Antigua in search of a better life for his family. What if he was placed in a detention center after trying to work hard to feed his family?
My suggestion is that instead of focusing and erecting prisons, we should seek to enforce our border immigration policies and then deal with law breakers through the police force as allowed by law. Detaining innocent persons and locking them away in cells for no crime they have committed is not the way to go, especially for a small nation like Antigua and Barbuda.
Detention Centers all across the world are rife with all sorts of abuses, rapes and corruption. Many in Europe and the US have had to make reforms and in some cases close down their facilities because it is not the humane and right thing to do, in the majority of cases, to good innocent people.
It will come back to haunt this nation.
Antiguan Non National