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Senator McClean: Jamaican body search claim a fabrication
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, yesterday assured the Barbadian public that the allegations made through a Jamaican newspaper on March 24th pertaining to a female citizen of that country, Shanique Myrie, being “body-searched” by a Barbadian Immigration Officer at the Grantley Adams International Airport on March 14th, are false.
During a specially organised press conference yesterday at Government Headquarters on Bay Street which was also attended by Chief Immigration Officer Erine Griffith, the Minister revealed that a thorough investigation was carried out by both the Immigration and Customs Departments immediately after the story broke, with the conclusion that the claims of the woman in question are “baseless”.
McClean then shed some light on the particulars of that investigation. Myrie, who arrived on a flight BW 415 from Jamaica and requested two weeks stay, failed to satisfy the concerns of immigration officials and was subsequently questioned by members of the Royal Barbados Police Force Drug Squad Unit, in the absence of any immigration officers.
As such, it emerged that although she initially said that she was going to stay with a Barbadian female, it was established that her contact was indeed a male Barbadian, with Myrie admitting she had lied to officials.
The Senator was keen to further share that it is not the policy of the Immigration Department to conduct searches “of any kind” as was reported by the Jamaica Observer newspaper, but rather the Customs Department.
However, on the occasion of the refuted incident, upon which two other persons were refused entry – another Jamaican national as well as a Vincentian citizen, with the latter arriving on a different flight – only baggage searches were conducted by Customs personnel in the general Customs Search Area.
“She was not taken through a secondary Customs search. An immigration officer was present during the brief examination of the applicant’s bags. Miss Myrie was not body-searched; there was a search of her baggage and not her person,” the Minister categorically stated.
She also shared that she recently received a phone call from the Dr. Kenneth Baugh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, as well as an official letter from the Jamaican Government about the matter on March 25th where it made mention of Myrie’s complaint as well as that of other Jamaican citizens who have since come forward about similar alleged incidents.
This, she said, was the first such official complaint she has received from the Jamaican Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Affairs since she took office in 2008.
She added that she is confident that these developments should not affect the warm relationship between the two regional countries, with Jamaica’s High Commissioner in Trinidad and Tobago, Sharon Saunders, to visit Barbados “as soon as possible” to discuss the Myrie case along with “the broader issue of attitudes”.
“I will have her visit the airport and all of the facilities, meet with officials and do all that we can to demonstrate how our systems work.”
Over 50 000 persons travelled to Barbados from Jamaica from 2008-2010, with only 851 of those being refused entry. McClean said these figures were important to note because she wanted to be clear that persons are not “pulled out of line” due to their nationality as there is “no intention by Barbadian officials to discriminate” against any visitors. She also pointed out that they are the first line of security for this island. (EL)