Friday, March 20, 2015

CCJ Reserves Judgement In Maurice Tomlinson Immigration Case ....... No restrictions on Caricom gays, TT officials say

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has reserved judgement in the application filed by human rights and gay rights advocate, Maurice Tomlinson, who is challenging the immigration laws of Trinidad and Tobago and Belize.

See the latest video of the actual proceedings HERE, HERE and HERE

Tomlinson is contending that the immigration laws of both countries violate his right to freedom of movement and his right not to be discriminated against on the basis of his nationality.

Tomlinson wants the CCJ to grant a declaration that the laws should be amended to remove the barring of homosexuals from entering Trinidad and Belize.

The human rights and gay rights advocate is also seeking damages.

Trinidad and Belize have opposed the application.

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (Trinidad Express) — Despite there being legislation in place under local immigration laws to prevent members of the gay community from entering Trinidad and Tobago, acting Chief Immigration Officer Gerry Downes yesterday said there is policy in place to allow those individuals who are members of Caricom nations free movement in and out of this country.

There are no restrictions on those individuals simply because of their sexual orientation, but restrictions are placed on people who are not members of Caricom states and are seeking to enter Trinidad and Tobago, he said.

Downes made the statement yesterday while testifying during a hearing at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in Port of Spain, in which Jamaican gay rights activist Maurice Tomlinson is challenging local immigration laws, which he contends are homophobic and inconsistent with Caricom policy on free movement between citizens of member states.

Questioned by Tomlinson’s attorney Douglas Mendes SC on how immigration officials may treat with the matter should his client seek to enter this country, Downes said: “If he were to come back to Trinidad we would treat him as any other Caricom national because he is a Caricom national.”

Tomlinson is challenging Section 8 of the Immigration Act, which allows immigration officials to refuse entry to homosexuals, prostitutes and other people who may benefit from the proceeds of either. He also brought action against the Government of Belize whose immigration legislation is similarly worded.

The action was brought under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which established both the CCJ and the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME).

As an activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) community, Tomlinson, who is also an attorney, had travelled to both countries previously, but after discovering the existence of the prohibitions he refused invitations from both countries to avoid violating their immigration laws “and he claims to have suffered prejudice thereby”.

The case of openly gay singer Elton John, who was allowed into this country to perform at a concert in Tobago in 2007, was also raised during the hearing.

Downes explained that if John was “a skilled Caricom national” he would have been allowed into this country and “that would not have been a problem”, but given he was not, John had to be granted special permission to do so.

Belize’s acting Director of Immigration, Maria Marin, also testified during the hearing. Like Downes, Marin said no members of Caricom nations are prevented from entering the country based on their sexual orientation.

She said, in 1998, a cruise ship with approximately 700 gays came to Belize and all the individuals were allowed into the country.

Presiding over the matter are CCJ president Sir Dennis Byron, Rolston Nelson, Charles Anderson, Adrian Saunders and Jacob Wit.

Attorney Imran Ali appears alongside Mendes for Tomlinson, while senior counsel Seenath Jairam, Wayne Sturge and Gerald Ramdeen are representing the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.

Mendes: Ban on gays ‘bad for T&T’


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