Justice Ricky Rahim. FILE PHOTO –
INACTION for six years on an immigration file on a Guyanese couple has led to their being awarded compensation by a High Court judge.
In ordering compensation of $320,000 for Khemraj and Indrawattie Persaud, Justice Ricky Rahim chided the Immigration Division for the delay and failure to act with “due dispatch” and hold a special inquiry for the couple.
In the case before Rahim, the Persauds entered Trinidad lawfully in 2002 with their two sons.
In 2003, Khemraj allegedly obtained residency-status stamps on their passports, and the couple travelled back and forth to Guyana, from then to 2009, without the legitimacy of their residency status being questioned.
In 2014, they applied for passports for their other children, who were born in Trinidad, but were told it appeared their own passports had been tampered with. They were put on orders of supervision pending a special inquiry.
Three years elapsed and there was still no resolution of their case, until July 22, 2020, when the special inquiry was finally held and it was decided through a forensic report that the couple’s passports were fraudulent.
They subsequently appealed to the Minister of National Security. That appeal was dismissed on November 17, 2020, but the couple was not told of this until March 9, 2021.
No criminal charges were laid against them, as the police held the view any charge would be statute-barred, since three years had elapsed. However, Rahim said this was an incorrect recommendation by police.
They were then told to buy tickets to Guyana by April 28, 2021, which they did, and filed their constitutional claim. On May 4, 2021, the division agreed not to enforce the deportation orders against them until the matter was determined.
On Wednesday, Rahim declared that their rights to the enjoyment of property and not to be deprived except by way of due process had been breached because of the protracted delay in prosecuting them when it was discovered their passports could be fraudulent.
Part of his award for compensation included vindicatory damages “to reflect the sense of public outrage and to emphasise the importance of the constitutional right and the gravity of the breach with the result being deterrence of further breaches.”
Rahim said, “It is outrageous that nothing occurred with the claimants’ case from the date the entry was made and that no police action would be taken until some five years later with no explanation for the delay.
A shorter delay could be attributed to an oversight, he said, but: “Five years without action is inexcusable.”
He said even if there was an inference to be drawn that the police were responsible for the delay, having kept the “file,” it did not absolve the division.
“There is no other way to put it other than the Immigration Division appeared to have dropped the ball and lost track of the file even though Attorneys for the claimants were in contact with that department on the issue of the immigration status of the claimants since 2017 on the evidence.”
He therfore concluded the delay was unreasonable, unwarranted and unfair.
Rahim reserved his decision on costs.
He dismissed the claims filed by the couple’s children.
Representing the Persauds were Farai Hove Maisasai and Antonia Pierre. Sanjeev Lalla represented the Attorney General and the Chief Immigration Officer.