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Lawyer to challenge ‘unfair’ deportations

Published: 
Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The State may face a legal challenge from some of the 82 Venezuelan nationals who were deported on Saturday.

Attorney Mervyn Cordner is claiming the Government may be held in contempt of court as it deported 62 of his clients while a legal challenge against it was pending.

Cordner filed a habeas corpus writ on behalf of one of the 62, Wilfer Sandoval, in the Port-of-Spain High Court on Saturday morning and was given until yesterday to serve it on Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon and Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Ghandi-Andrews.

Sandoval was expected to be taken before Justice Mira Dean-Armourer when the case comes up before her this week.

Under the writ, detainers are called upon to justify their continued detention of a detainee. It is frequently used by attorneys after their clients spend protracted periods in police custody without being charged.

While Cordner was not required to do so, he attempted to serve it on Saturday afternoon after he received information Sandoval was among 53 men and 29 women who were being repatriated on a flight provided by the Venezuelan government. Cordner is questioning the decision to follow through with their deportation, as several Government agencies would have been aware Sandoval’s case was under challenge at the time. He is expected to raise the issue when the case comes up for hearing, but a date for the hearing was not set up to late yesterday. Sandoval’s case is expected to be used as a test case for other deported detainees.

In the case, Cordner is claiming Sandoval’s detention and eventual deportation was illegal as he was in the process of applying for asylum. His claims seemed corroborated by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), who issued a statement criticising the move.

Stating that 13 of the deportees were registered asylum seekers and 19 others were in the process of applying, the UNHCR claimed the deportation breached article 31 of the convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention), which precludes the imposition of penalties on persons seeking international protection.

The UNHCR had raised the issue with the Immigration Division but its concerns did not hamper the move.

While the Government has claimed the mass deportation was voluntary, the UNHCR claimed this could not be independently verified by its observers.

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