Judge quashes deportation order for Venezuelan mother

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Margaret Mohammed –

A High Court judge has quashed the deportation order for a Venezuelan mother issued even though there was an injunction in place preventing her removal from Trinidad and Tobago.

Justice Margaret Mohammed also declared the decision by former national security minister Stuart Young to issue the deportation order on January 12, 2021, despite a 2020 injunction in place, irrational and illegal.

She also held that the decision concerning the deportation order was in breach of the woman’s rights, was a breach of the rule of law and was also in breach of Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams’s injunction.

Mohammed also ordered the State to pay the Venezuelan mother’s legal bills.

Newsday understands the mother is still in TT and an assessment for the false imprisonment of her children, ordered previously by another court, took place last week.

Mohammed’s ruling comes after yet another judge, in November last year, ordered a total of $2.4 million in compensation to more than two dozen Venezuelan migrants for their illegal detention at two police stations in the southwestern police district after they were arrested in July 2020 for entering TT illegally.

In the case before Mohammed, the mother was arrested and detained on November 24, 2020. She was among a group of migrants who returned to Trinidad two days after they were escorted out of TT waters by the Coast Guard.

She was kept at the heliport in Chaguaramas and obtained an injunction from Quinlan-Williams five days later. However, on December 15, 2020, the minister issued an order of detention when the woman’s covid19 quarantine period had ended and issued a deportation order on January 12, 2021.

In opposition to the claim, attorneys for the State argued that Quinlan-Williams’ order was not served on the defendant before the minister issued the deportation order. They also argued because the minister had no notice of the judge’s order, he was not bound but it nor did the temporary injunction prevent him from issuing the deportation order.

However, in her ruling, Mohammed said after looking at the evidence – which included e-mail exchanges between the woman’s attorneys and the then-Solicitor General Carol Hernandez – “service of the Quinlan-Williams order was proper,” so the minister ought to have been aware of its terms.

“I have also concluded that the natural and ordinary meaning of the Quinlan-Williams order was that the defendant was prevented from issuing the deportation order prior to the determination of the substantive issue…”

“At the time the Quinlan-Williams order was made there was no deportation order in place which the court would have been aware of.” She also said she was bound by a previous ruling from the Privy Council involving another Venezuelan migrant on the issue.

The woman was represented by attorneys Gerald Ramdeen, Umesh Maharaj and Dayadai Harripaul while Gilbert Peterson, SC, Vanessa Gopaul, Raphael Ajodhia, Michelle Benjamin and Janine Joseph represented the Minister of National Security.