The Trinidad and Tobago-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) last week Wednesday ruled that citizens of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) “have important rights but to exercise these rights clear documentary evidence of their nationality is required.”
The ruling was handed down in the case of Bain vs. Trinidad and Tobago that was brought to the Port-of-Spain court by Ciboney Chambers, headed by attorney-at-law, Ruggles Ferguson, a strong advocate of Grenada abandoning final appeals from the British Privy Council in favour of the regional court.
Bain, a citizen of both Grenada and the United States, had claimed that his right to freedom of movement was infringed when he was denied entry into the twin-island state when arriving from Grenada just before midnight on December 14, 2017.
It’s reported that on that day, he presented himself as an American citizen, producing only his US passport, as his Grenadian passport had expired some years earlier.
Upon arrival at Piarco International Airport, immigration officials questioned him concerning information they had received about a man with the same name who has convictions on drug-related offences.
Although he denied any drug convictions, Bain was refused entry and was sent back to Grenada on an early flight the following day although he had also informed the immigration officers that he was a citizen of Grenada and thus entitled to freedom of movement in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states.
As evidence of his citizenship, Bain had produced his Grenadian driver’s licence, which stated that he was a Grenadian citizen.
He also showed his Grenadian voter’s identification card which stated that he was born in Grenada.
In addition, his US passport also listed Grenada as his country of birth.
Bain then argued that the documents should have been enough to invoke his right of freedom of movement.
In its judgment, the regional court determined that, while there was no doubt that Bain is a Grenadian citizen, he did not present sufficient documentation to prove it to the immigration officers.
The court stated that the presentation of the Grenadian driver’s licence and voter’s identification card was not sufficient as unlike the Grenadian passport, neither document was meant to serve as evidence of citizenship and in addition, they were neither machine-readable nor designed to be stamped by immigration officials.
The Court also rejected the argument that the notation in Bain’s US passport that he was born in Grenada conclusively proved citizenship.
It was also noted that it was possible that Bain could have renounced his citizenship or have it stripped away by the Grenadian government, while mere birth in a country does not always automatically evidence citizenship.
The CCJ considered whether Bain waived his right to free movement as a national of Grenada when he presented his US passport.
The Court noted that if someone with dual citizenship exercises their rights attached to one nationality it does not eliminate their other nationality and the rights attached to that citizenship.
“Therefore, if Mr. Bain was denied entry based on his US passport, he could still claim his rights under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas if he could forthwith prove that he is Grenadian citizen,” the court noted.
The Court also relied on submissions from the Caribbean Community which stated that the “appropriate travel document to invoke the right of freedom of movement is the CARICOM passport or a passport issued by a CARICOM Member State”.
The CCJ concluded that all the documents Bain presented did not conclusively establish his Grenadian nationality.