AN appeal court judge has deemed urgent an appeal by the Ministry of National Security against a judge’s order for 64 Venezuelans to be placed on supervision orders after they were given permission to launch their challenge against their deportation.
On Tuesday, Justice of Appeal Ronnie Boodoosingh deemed the appeal urgent and ordered that it be heard on an expedited basis on November 27.
“This matter raises issues of liberty of persons, which is among the highest of rights, and arguably the highest right, in a democratic State such as we are.
“This instant matter impacts persons claiming to be refugees and touches on the State’s obligations under our law in relation to such persons,” Boodoosingh said.
On August 9, Justice Ricky Rahim ordered the immediate release of the 64 Venezuelans who challenged their deportation.
Rahim’s order gave the migrants a temporary reprieve against immediate deportation. However, hours later attorneys for the ministry appealed the ruling.
So swift was the move that immigration officers detailed to process the migrants' documents prior to their release from the heliport were stopped and told to leave the compound, with over 30 migrants still to be processed.
The next day, Appeal Court judge Prakash Moosai granted a stay of execution of Rahim’s order paving the way for the mass deportation of those migrants who were detained at the Chaguaramas heliport; most of whom were held on July 9 at the Apex Bar in St James. Close to 100 Venezuelans were deported on August 14. Half of them have since returned to TT, illegally.
In his ruling, Boodoosingh said the appeal would determine if migrants, claiming refugee or asylum-seeker status, should be put on supervision orders or detained pending deportation and the State’s obligations to them.
“On the other hand, it poses a conundrum for the State authorities about what to do with illegal entrants to the country pending implementation of an order for deportation.
“There are resource implications. If there are divergent practices or a lack of clarity, this may be detrimental to good administration.
“If the State has to pay persons ‘wrongly’ detained, there are implications for the allocation of public funds.
“For both sides, therefore, there is a weighty public interest element in this matter which makes this an exceptional case.
“It calls for early disposal of the claim one way or the other and for clarity to be established in the law. “Such clarity will benefit both the State and existing and potential illegal entrants,” Boodoosingh said.
The State’s appeal raised eight grounds in which they contend Rahim was wrong and erred in law by the findings he made.
Representing the ministry are attorneys Gregory Delzin, Vanessa Gopaul, Anola Mohan, Avion Romain and Vincent Jardine.
Criston J Williams appeared for the migrants who are also represented by Blaine Sobrian and Shivanand Mohan, all of the law firm, Quantum Legal.