IMMIGRATION officials must give reasons for rejecting anyone from entering TT, a High Court judge has ruled after she found to be illegal, a decision to deport a Bahamian man who came to Trinidad to visit his girlfriend for Carnival in 2019.
Justice Margaret Mohammed also held that the Chief Immigration Officer did not have the power to issue a rejection order to “permanently remove” anyone from TT.
In her orders, granted on Monday, Mohammed declared that the decision of the Chief Immigration Officer to issue a rejection order for Lawrence Kwasi Zogli was illegal. She declared that the decision to deport him without giving reasons for doing so was also unlawful. The rejection order was also quashed.
Zogli travelled to Trinidad on February 26, 2019, for Carnival and to meet his girlfriend’s parents. When he arrived, Zogli who is a pharmacist in Nassau, was questioned by immigration officials and detained after he was told his name showed up on their border control system as being “flagged.”
Zogli was told a name search showed he was charged for attempted human trafficking in Cuba, which he confirmed. He said he was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in 2005, but the conviction was quashed in 2009, on appeal. Zogli said he told the immigration officers that after his conviction was quashed, he moved to Nassau and founded his own company.
Zogli was taken to the Airport Suite hotel and kept under detention until arrangements were made to have him deported on March 1. He hired attorneys Jagdeo Singh, Dinesh Rambally, Kiel Taklalsingh and Stefan Ramkissoon of Fortis Chambers who filed a judicial review application and an emergency application which was heard by Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams who, at midnight, ordered that he remain in TT and be placed under a supervision order.
Zogli was eventually released and his passport returned to him. In her decision, Mohammed said immigration law called for “transparent statement” by immigration officials in exercising the discretion to reject a traveller.
“In the instant case, there was no evidence that such a transparent statement by the defendant exists. In those circumstances, the defendant has run afoul of her duty to promulgate such criterion to be used when the discretion under section 21 (1) is to be exercised,” Mohammed said.
She also added that the Chief Immigration Officer breached the principles of transparency and accountability by failing to set a policy on how the exercise of that discretion is to be used when rejecting people who may fall in the prohibited class.