In a release, Griffith said this country’s laws do not in any way discriminate against African immigrants, and his ministry “has the mandate to secure and protect the nation’s borders and points of entry and, as such, will continue to ensure that the immigration laws of this land are enforced”.
He dispelled accusations the Immigration Division has been purposely targeting illegal African nationals on the basis of race and nationality, “contrary to public figures that choose to make race an issue in this case”.
Deportation statistics from the Immigration Division for January to October 2014 fully support this, Griffith said, and also show African nationals are in the minority when it comes to illegal immigrants who get the boot.
The highest figures for deportation were Jamaicans at 147, Guyanese at 140, the Dominican Republic with 59, Colombia at 18, the Chinese at 14 and Grenada at 14.
“Only three African nationals from Nigeria were deported for that ten-month period,” Griffith stated.
He stated it is through no fault of the Ministry of National Security that the recently deported illegal African nationals, who were housed at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC), were detained for an extended period of time.
This was due firstly to a lack of cooperation from detainees, with “many” detainees refusing to complete or sign relevant travel documents and visa applications to facilitate their repatriation. “In such cases, alternate travel routes had to be explored, resulting in substantial costs to the State and a delay in the deportation process,” Griffith said.
The ministry also experienced other challenges in treating with detainees, including delays in sourcing travel documents from parent countries and the inability to properly identify individuals housed at the IDC as a result of “inconsistent false information provided by the detainees themselves”, Griffith said.
“Furthermore, all expenses for repatriation had to be met by the Trinidad and Tobago Government for African nationals, unlike repatriation of other nationalities,” Griffith said.
Sunday’s deportation cost the Government $2.6 million, as a Caribbean Airlines flight was chartered.
Griffith said it must be noted that recently, two African nationals who were housed at the IDC were given approval to leave the facility on condition they check in with Immigration authorities at specific times.
The immigrants failed to adhere to the conditions and are now considered fugitives of the law, Griffith said.