Caribbean Countries Sued For Banning Entry Of Gays, Lesbians

Port of Spain, March 19: A Jamaican lawyer has filed a lawsuit in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) aimed at forcing the governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Belize to scrap immigration laws that bar the entry of gays and lesbians.

Legal representatives from Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean Community made statements on Wednesday at a hearing on the suit, Efe news agency cited court registry supervisor Nandlal Hardial as saying.

Acting Chief Immigration Officer Gerry Downes yesterday told a hearing at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in Port of Spain that despite there being legislation in place under local immigration laws to prevent members of the gay community from entering Trinidad and Tobago, there is policy in place to allow those individuals who are members of Caricom nations free movement in and out of that country.

There are no restrictions on those individuals simply because of their sexual orientation, but restrictions are placed on people who are not members of Caricom states and are seeking to enter Trinidad and Tobago, he said.

Downes was testifying in the CCJ case, in which Jamaican gay rights activist Maurice Tomlinson is challenging local immigration laws, which he contends are homophobic and inconsistent with Caricom policy on free movement between citizens of member states.

Questioned by Tomlinson’s attorney Douglas Mendes SC on how immigration officials may treat with the matter should his client seek to enter this country, Downes said: “If he were to come back to Trinidad we would treat him as any other Caricom national because he is a Caricom national.”

Tomlinson is challenging Section 8 of the Immigration Act, which allows immigration officials to refuse entry to homosexuals, prostitutes and other people who may benefit from the proceeds of either. He also brought action against the government of Belize whose immigration legislation is similarly worded.

The action was brought under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which established both the CCJ and the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME).

Belize’s acting Director of Immigration, Maria Marin, also testified during the hearing. Like Downes, Marin said no members of Caricom nations are prevented from entering the country based on their sexual orientation.

She said, in 1998, a cruise ship with approximately 700 gays came to Belize and all the individuals were allowed into the country.

Maurice Tomlinson, an attorney and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights activist, filed the suit in May 2013.

The Trinidad-based CCJ is the sole arbiter of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which established the Caribbean Community in 1973, and has exclusive jurisdiction over matters arising from violations of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) statutes, including those guaranteeing freedom of movement.

Tomlinson says Trinidad and Tobago and Belize are violating the rights of LGBT citizens of Caricom to move freely between member states.

Twelve of the 15 Caricom member states are signatories of the CCJ: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St.Kitts and Nevis, St.Lucia, St.Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

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