IT is unlawful for immigration officials to reject anyone from entering the country without giving proper reasons for doing so, a High Court judge has ruled.

Also, the Chief Immigration Officer does not have the power to issue a rejection order to permanently remove anyone from this country.

This was the ruling of High Court judge Justice Margaret Mohammed after she found it was illegal to deport a Bahamian man who came to this country to visit his girlfriend for Carnival in 2019.

In making the ruling, the judge quashed the rejection order for Lawrence Kwasi Zogli who travelled to Trinidad in February 2019 to meet his girlfriend and her parents.

After arriving at Piarco International Airport, Zogli, a pharmacist, was detained by immigration officials and told that his name had been flagged on their border control system.

He was informed that a name search showed he had been charged with attempted human trafficking in Cuba, which Zogli confirmed to be true.

He told the officials that, in 2005, he had been convicted and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment, but in 2009 the conviction was quashed after it was appealed.

He was then taken to the Airport Suite hotel and kept under detention to be deported on March 1.

But before this could take place, Zogli retained the services of attorneys Jagdeo Singh, Dinesh Rambally, Kiel Taklalsingh and Stefan Ramkissoon, who filed a judicial review application as well as an application for an urgent hearing.

The applications were granted by Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams who ordered that Zogli remain in this country and be placed under a supervision order.

Transparency and accountability

In delivering her ruling on Monday, Justice Mohammed said immigration law required officers to give transparent statements in exercising their discretion in rejecting anyone from entering Trinidad and Tobago.

In this case, however, it was not done.

“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,” said the judge.

She also pointed out that the Chief Immigration Officer had breached the principles of transparency and accountability by failing to set a policy on how the exercise of that discretion ought to be used when rejecting people who may be prohibited from entering the country.