Laquesha Bailey (NYLO Intern)
"My family suffers today because our breadwinner and protector is incarcerated", wrote Paula Nicole Haddaway, wife of Nigerian national, Time Hunter Okoedo Kings, who has been imprisoned for a combined period of more than four years, in an open letter to Minister of National Security, Edmund DIllon.
According to Haddaway, her husband was first arrested following a raid on their home at around 12 A.M in March 2013 and in spite of paying the required immigration bond, he was held in custody for another 16 months without explanation. After his release in July 2014, Haddaway tried to get her husband regularized, writing to then Minister of National Security, Gary Griffith and meeting with Junior Minister, Embau Moheni who promised to look into her problem with no apparent follow through.
After his release into his wife's custody, Kings was in and out of the hospital owing to head injuries sustained following a beating by six officers with batons while held at the Immigration Detention Center. Because of these hospital visits, he was forced to miss a few of his weekly supervision appointments and though his wife presented a doctor's letter, he was branded a fugitive in December 2014. Kings surrendered wilfully with the presence of a lawyer and has been in custody ever since.
Since then, Haddaway said she has consistently pleaded to various outlets inclusive of the media and the previous and current government to no avail and has only received empty, unfulfilled promises. A mother of five, Haddaway described the struggle and deteriorating quality of life she and her children have to endure with the absence of their provider and how it is impossible for her to work given the high cost of caretakers for her children: "4 years now and my children have not enjoyed the company of their father".
Khafra Kambon, former leader of the Black Power Movement in Trinidad and Tobago and current chairman of the Emancipation Support Group, believes that the case forms part of the larger issue surrounding the treatment of African migrants within the country and the lack of empathy and malice often shown to them as evidenced by past publicized cases. He said, "It's almost as if they're not considered human beings." He went on to describe the "unacceptable situation", citing the lack of supplies, the unappetizing food and the fact that due to over-filling of the facility, migrants are often forced to sleep on the floor. Referencing Kings, he said that his previously-sustained injuries have been exacerbated by the conditions in which he was placed and in spite of having been recommended to see a specialist, he has yet to visit one.
In her letter, Haddaway pleaded for answers as to the state of her spouse and the particulars of his case. She expressed her hope that the situation may come to an end soon so that her children would not have to grow up without the protection, guidance and love of their father.