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Court stops Nigerian man’s deportation
A High Court judge has stopped the deportation of a Nigerian national who is married to a Trinidadian.
Justice Jacqueline Wilson made the order on Saturday night hours before 37-year-old Onekachi Eke Aka Emmanuel was due to be deported along with a group of illegal immigrants from West Africa.
During the hearing of the emergency injunction, Emmanuel’s lawyers Criston J Williams and Shirvani Ramkissoon argued that his deportation would be unlawful as the Immigration Division took more than four and a half years to act.
They submitted that the Division is not authorised to detain a person for more than six months and in doing so had breached Emmanuel’s right to protection from cruel and inhumane treatment under the
Constitution and several international human rights treaties to which T&T is a signatory.
Emmanuel will remain at the Immigration Detention Centre in Aripo until another judge decides whether he should be set free pending determination of his judicial review claim on Friday.
In the event that his legal challenge fails, the T&T Guardian understands Emmanuel will seek to petition the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Emmanuel said in the affidavit filed in his case that he came to the country in September 2012 to visit friends and was initially permitted a three week stay. He was subsequently granted three extensions.
Emmanuel claimed he lost his passport while travelling in a taxi in December 2012 and was detained by immigration officials after it was returned a month later. He was allowed to stay for several months under the provision that he would purchase a return ticket to Nigeria to facilitate voluntary deportation.
While on an order of supervision, Emmanuel married his girlfriend Christella La Fortune.
He visited the division a month after his wedding to change his immigration status through his wife’s nationality and claimed that he was told to begin the process he would need to leave Trinidad and re-enter.
In October 2013, he left on a flight to Grenada and returned the same day. However, he was immediately detained by immigration officers, who questioned the validity of his marriage as his wife was not at the airport when he arrived.
He was eventually placed before a special immigration inquiry, at the end of which he was ordered to be deported.
“This causes me extreme distress because I am not a criminal for being unable to afford my ticket back to Nigeria,” Emmanuel said.
He claimed that in the four and a half years he has been at the centre on three occasions, due to overcrowding at that facility, he was taken the Eastern Correctional Rehabilitation Centre in Santa Rosa, which is used for convicted criminals.
He complained about inhumane conditions at both facilities, including poor ventilation, a lack of healthcare and poor quality food.
“The meals are rationed and consists only of carbohydrates which include mashed potatoes, macaroni and cassava. There is no protein for our dietary needs,” Emmanuel said.
In addition to declarations that the division acted illegally, Emmanuel is seeking compensation for his protracted detention.
The T&T Guardian understands that the division has delayed the deportation of West Africans in the past due to the expenses associated with their return. As international aviation policy requires a certain number of escorts per deportee and the division usually waits until they have a large number for deportation to make it cost effective to charter a direct flight.
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