TWENTY-SIX Venezuelan asylum seekers have each been fined $8,000 by a Chaguanas magistrate.
They were fined by magistrate Wendy Dougeen-Bally when they appeared before her on Monday and yesterday. They were given 21 days to pay or, if they fail to do so, will be jailed for six months with hard labour. The 26 were held in Chaguanas last week and were represented in court by attorney Chelsea John. Initially, John only appeared for one of the 26, but the magistrate asked her to appear for all of them.
The first group appeared in the Second Court on Monday and the second yesterday. They were also brought to court on Tuesday, but there were problems getting Spanish translators to assist the court.
All 26, both men and women, pleaded guilty to being in the country illegally. John, in mitigation, asked the court to consider putting the 26 on a bond, in accordance with Section 71 (1) (b) of the Summary Courts Act, or reprimand and discharge them. She said the 26 were asylum-seekers who fled Venezuela because of the civil and political unrest in that country.
She said to prosecute them would be in bad faith and urged the magistrate to set the tone when treating with illegal immigrants who had applied for asylum status. The magistrate’s sentence is expected to be appealed on the grounds of its being disproportionate, irrational and perverse.