The Jamaican man who was denied entry at the Piarco International Airport on Friday says he did not escape custody and claimed he paid US$500 to an Immigration officer to secure his freedom.
The 29-year-old man contacted with Guardian Media on Sunday and provided a photo of his Caribbean Airlines boarding pass from the flight BW415 from Kingston, Jamaica to Trinidad as proof of his identity, his order of denial and a photo of the room he was being kept in to corroborate his account. The Airports Authority stated the suspect escaped from immigration and airline security officers and left the airport.
The man said he was stopped by Immigration officers from entering the country on Friday night but said there was no basis for their refusal. He admitted that he had been prevented from entering T&T on three previous occasions and deported to Jamaica as officers claimed he had pending criminal charges in Jamaica.
“I do not have any pending, previous or ongoing court matters in Jamaica. I am simply trying to come here to be with my children and my girlfriend who is pregnant.
“In Jamaica, when you get refused entry by another country, you have to go back through an Immigration interview and a police interview, if I had got caught trying to leave the country with pending matters, I would have been arrested already in Jamaica,” he said. While being held in a room awaiting a flight back to Jamaica, the man says he was visited by an Immigration officer.
“He came up to me and asked me how much money I have on me. You have to declare your money when you come in, so he would have already had an idea of how much money I had. When I told him, he said he did not understand why they are refusing me entry to the country and if I give him US$500, he would leave the door unlocked for me to leave.”
Asked whether he was not concerned about bribing an Immigration officer, he responded: “I didn’t know it was a bribe. The thing is if it was a bribe, then I would offer him the money to let me out. He asked me for the money and told me he was feeling sorry for me and would leave the door open,” he said.
The man was scheduled to be placed on a flight to Jamaica on Saturday but when immigration officers went to check for him around 3.30 am, he could not be found.
Sources told the Sunday Guardian that the men removed a ceiling tile and crawled through the air ducts to escape.
The man said a statement by the Airports Authority that he escaped from the room was completely untrue.
“The door to that room needs a swipe pass and a PIN number for the door to open. They have so many cameras in there, all they need to do is check the footage and they will see him inside there talking to me.
Obviously, they are setting me up, they took my money and told the police I escaped.” To make matters worse, the man said he is physically unable to run out of anywhere as he has several steel pins in his leg as a result of an accident in February 2018 in Jamaica.
“I cannot run or walk fast or climb over anything. I walk with a limp. He was told when the door would be unlocked and what time to leave. I didn’t know it was illegal, I thought he was just helping me,” the man claimed.
The man said his relatives living in Trinidad became alarmed after learning that police were searching for him and were unwilling to let him visit their homes.
He said the Immigration officer told him if he could come up with another US$300 today, he would organise for him to get back his passport, which was being held by immigration officials.
The man said his next step is to meet with police officers of the St Joseph Police Station.
“I spoke to a police officer and I arranged to meet him on Monday with a lawyer so I could tell them what really happened.”
Asked if he expected to be arrested and deported after his meeting with police, he said, “I hope they don’t do that. I have been trying to come back to Trinidad on three different occasions and I really want to be able to see my children and be with them.”
In a statement on Saturday, the Airports Authority said the man “eluded” Immigration and airline security officials and exited the airport.
“The Authority hereby confirms that a Jamaican national, who was refused entry into Trinidad and Tobago and awaiting a return flight to Jamaica, eluded Immigration and airline security officials and exited the airport.”
But the authority said people who are refused entry by Immigration officials become the responsibility of the airline that brought them into the country.
Reporter: Sharlene Rampersad