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Media blackout on deportees

The US ICE agency takes away a criminal deportee to put on a plane to take him out of the country

The Grenada government continues to maintain a media blackout on reports that a U.S plane landed Thursday at the airport in the south of the island and dropped off a number of deportees allegedly with criminal records.

The report of the plane bringing home the deportees at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA), after a stop in Jamaica to drop off 28 deportees was broken by THE NEW TODAY.

The Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF), which is currently playing a leading role in running the island during the current state of emergency, has not made any official comment on the deportee issue.

Chief of Immigration, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Leroy Joseph will only confirm that a plane with deportees had landed and that any further information would have to be authorised by Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Jesmon Prince.

Details are not available on the number of Grenadian deportees, as well as their possible criminal record and COVID-19 status.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) announced in a social media posting within hours of the arrival of the U.S plane that the deportees were met on arrival in the country by personnel from the Ministry of Health, were interviewed, tested for COVID-19 and later transferred to a Government facility and held in quarantine.

According to JCF, the deportees were also met by personnel from the Jamaica Customs Agency and members of the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency to ensure the intake process was smooth and all steps were taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In recent months, the United States has been deporting Jamaicans on the last Thursday of each month and in April alone 48 persons were sent back to Jamaica on decisions taken by U.S law enforcement officials.

U.S prisons are known to be a hotbed for the deadly coronavirus and in recent weeks and the Donald Trump administration continues to deport thousands of inmates who contracted the virus to their home country.

About a month ago, reports had surfaced from a Grenadian with close ties to Washington that several deportees with criminal records would shortly be sent back home.

THE NEW TODAY was able to confirm that a Pastor of Religion was in contact with Immigration Thursday to inquire whether a particular deportee had come into Grenada on the flight since he was asked to assist him.

MBIA has been closed to air traffic since March as part of measures by the Keith Mitchell-led government to combat the coronavirus pandemic that has spread through the world following the outbreak in China in November/December 2019.

According to a senior lawyer who is familiar with the issue, the Minister of Religion called Immigration at the airport regarding a specific individual whose parents are living in St Lucia and who had contacted him to find accommodation for the deportee on arrival in Grenada.

He said the information that was relayed to the clergyman was that the particular individual was on the way to Grenada from the United States and was passing though Jamaica where other deportees were being dropped off.

“So he (Pastor) called the Immigration to find out if the guy was indeed arriving today (Thursday) so he could make the appropriate booking with (name of small hotel owner). So apparently the guy’s (deportee) parents are not Grenadians but he was born in Grenada so hence he is a Grenadian.

“When he (Pastor) calls the Immigration, the Immigration does not tell him that there is no flight coming in but tells him, he is going and check on the person. He (Pastor) didn’t call for the flight – he called for the person. He called to find out if that person was coming into the country today.

“He did not call in general about a flight landing. So the answer from Immigration was not there is no flight coming in but they’re going to check if Mr. X is coming in.

The lawyer felt that the authorities in Grenada should not seek to hide this kind of information from citizens about arriving deportees whether with criminal records or not being sent back home by the United States.

He said: “If Grenadians are being repatriated, I see nothing wrong with opening the border to bring people in…. something that you should be proud to do. It is Grenadians coming back to claim their heritage. That is my view.

“Every Grenadian has a right to be in Grenada. If they choose to go in another country and whether they are forced to come or choose to come back, you can’t legally prevent them from coming back – whether they are a murderer, thieves, whether they’re sick, they belong to Grenada… that is the reality. There’s nothing to hide. These people really stupid,” he added.

The attorney stressed that the authorities in Grenada would have been notified long in advance by the United States about the decision that was taken to repatriate its citizens who had run afoul of U.S laws.

He said the procedure is that Washington would have been making arrangements through the local Ministry of Foreign Affairs, headed by Peter David, as well as the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) to facilitate the entry of the Grenadian deportees.

“These are Foreign Affairs communication. It is no secret, not something that they would have spring on them. They will notify you officially that so and so, and so and so is being deported. So it is not something that happened overnight – they can’t spring it on you. Why they are getting on so?”

There has been mixed reactions from Grenadians on the issue of the returning deportees.

One New York-based individual said: “Shouldn’t they all be quarantined because of the rampant Covid-19 infections in the US? I heard that Caribbean island/Caricom nations are threatened with repercussions if they don’t allow these deportation flights … but the least (what) we can do is to quarantine them.”

Another local at home remarked: “It is sad…no one said anything in the news about that flight. No news (television or radio) talked about the flight today”.

One female at home said, ‘this is concerning” and another who lives in Europe added, “disturbing in this era,”

Grenada now has 23 confirmed COVID-19 cases while neighbouring St. Vincent and the Grenadines has seen its numbers moved from 18 to 25 within hours of the arrival of returning cruise ship workers from the United States.

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