An optimistic Carrington saw this as one of the benefits which Caricom could derive from the Fifth Summit of the Americas, which ended in Port-of-Spain on Sunday. He saw the need for greater collaboration between the US and the regional body to properly integrate persons deported to any country in the Caribbean.
Addressing a news conference at the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) Secretariat in St Clair, Carrington said the deportee issue was raised during a bi-lateral meeting between Obama and Caricom leaders last Saturday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. He explained the deportee issue was one which Caricom had been discussing with the US long before Obama’s time.
Carrington said Caricom leaders told Obama about the need for “enhancing the terms and conditions of the information for the return of deportees.”
He said right now, there was no clear information which could be used to determine “what constitutes a deportee, and what offence constitutes deportation.”
Carrington said, “It was pointed out that in some cases what was well mentioned was the offence for which the person was being deported...As a result, he (Obama) found there was need for more comprehensive information from the US and the country receiving the deportee.”
Carrington said Caricom also wanted greater pre-consultation with US authorities before any person is deported from America to any of its member states. Also, assistance was needed with the development of proper systems to reintegrate deportees.
These are some of the technical matters to be discussed when Caricom heads meet with Obama later this year.
Asked whether Caricom leaders received a commitment from Obama that the deportee issue and issues related to it would be addressed, Carrington replied: “That the issues would be looked at? Yes. Not necessarily by him, but by members of his administration. We got a sympathetic ear.”
The Declaration of Commitment of Port-of-Spain which Prime Minister Patrick Manning signed on behalf of all 34 summit leaders on Sunday does not mention anything about deportees but refers to “the criminal gang problem” in the Americas which some believe is fuelled by deportees from the US. A report issued by the US Department of Homeland Security in December 2006, indicated that 1,593 Trinidad and Tobago nationals were among 36,000 criminals who were deported from the US to the Caribbean over the last seven years after committing violent crimes such as homicides, kidnapping, robbery, grand larceny and fraud.
At that time, local police sources believed deportees were responsible for the increase in homicides, gangland crimes, kidnappings and robberies associated with violence.
Addressing the deportee question during a meeting of Caricom national security ministers at the Hilton Trinidad on May 10, 2005, Manning noted, “We have not been able to prevent this activity of criminal deportation perhaps because we have not engaged our collective strength but also because we have not been able to provide empirical evidence as to the extent of its negative impact.”
On December 28, 2006, National Security Minister Martin Joseph said 523 deportees were assisted by the social displacement officers programme since that programme was launched in July 2004.
“These officers determine the deportee’s individual needs and requirements with regards to accommodation, availability of family support, national identification cards and skills training requirements,” Joseph stated.
During a Budget debate in the Senate in October 2003, then Social Development (now Public Utilties) Minister Mustapha Abdul-Hamid said 236 deportees entered the country each year and could pose a threat to national security. In the same debate, then Legal Affairs Minister Camille Robinson-Regis slammed the former UNC government for not putting proper mechanisms in place to deal with US deportees. This issue sparked a debate between former US Ambassador Dr Roy Austin and former Trade Minister Ken Valley in November 2003 about whether deportees from the US contribute to local crime. “We have to deal with the data that is available at present. Certainly the data I looked at says the deportees are not making a significant contribution,” Austin said.
However, Valley countered: “I don’t know whether the US Ambassador (Austin) has any statistics especially in the area of kidnapping, which is new to TT, I would think that deportees may account for what is happening here.”
A US Homeland Security report dated February 12, 2004, said Guyana’s government was concerned that criminal deportees from the US were fuelling a new wave of crime in that country.
The report said in January of that year, then Guyana Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj stated, “There is evidence that supports the contention that they (deportees) have been involved in some of these criminal activities.”