CCJ affirms right of entry
HOWEVER ONE REGARDS IT, the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice in the Shanique Myrie case is of major importance to the development of the region as a single economic space.
Indeed, in opening their judgment the court declared, quite rightly in our opinion, that the case deals with important issues of Caribbean Community law that have never been previously addressed by the court, and that the most important of these issues was whether and to what extent CARICOM nationals have a right of free movement within the Caribbean community.
In the circumstances, the court was clear that the right to free movement is exactly what it says – a right. It also was of the opinion that such rights could be restricted but that there must be evidence that will stand up to scrutiny as grounds on which one could justify the refusal of entry.
This seems to be a powerful restatement of the right to free movement and officials such as Immigration officers and the like in doing their duty must now take on board the guidelines such as they are which the court spoke to.
They must be aware that they are dealing with established rights of entry and that to restrict that right they must have grounds on which they can so restrict the CARICOM national. They must equally be aware that they must weigh the position with which they are presented carefully, for the failure to do this may result in a finding that the rights of the CARICOM national may have been unjustifiably infringed.
There are some very important general lessons to be taken from this exercise; and the first one is that law is not made and rights cannot be established unless litigants and their lawyers are prepared from time to time to challenge the received “truths” in the society and to litigate such matters within the juridical organs of the state.
In this respect we all need to recognize the bravery of Miss Myrie to complain about what she saw as her dehumanizing treatment at our national airport when she expected to be able to assert her right as a national of a member state to her treaty rights of entry. Her decision to stand up and fight for what she alleges was a denial of these rights is a landmark victory, in so far as the court upheld the relevant part of her claim, for all CARICOM citizens who travel throughout the region.
Time and again, history has shown that laws and decisions and indeed rights are the more seriously established and respected when some brave soul decided enough is enough and dared to stand up for the vindication of his or her rights.
Against a background of anecdotal information concerning the less than respectful treatment of some Caribbean citizens at some ports of entry in the region we now have the guidance of the CCJ to remove any unlawful impediments to freedom of movement!
We are Caribbean people and when we travel and work within the region one with another we enhance the cause of regional integration in a meaningful way. This decision, which solidly affirms the right to freedom of movement, within the law, helps to assure the cause of regional integration.