July 6, 2016 -
A plan to fingerprint air and sea passengers entering Barbados, including citizens, has been ruled unconstitutional by Justice Pamela Beckles in a challenge brought by a local social activist and attorney, David Comissiong.
Back in February, Barbados Chief Immigration Officer said that in order to bring Barbados in line with other international ports of entry, all arriving air and sea passengers had to be fingerprinted starting April 1, in order to enter the country. However, in March, following public concern and legal challenges to the constitutionality of the new regulations, implementation was deferred.
At the time, the Acting Chief Immigration Officer said a review of all legal procedures previously undertaken in adopting Immigration (Biometric) Regulations 2015 was taking place in collaboration with the Solicitor General’s Chambers and the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and that any irregularities found will be corrected.
The case brought before Justice Beckles was heard in chambers after the government failed to file a defence within the required 28 days. Beckles ruled the Immigration (Biometric) Regulations null and void and unconstitutional.
“Just as we anticipated, this matter was not contested. It really couldn’t have been contested because the facts were so clear. So Justice Pamela Beckles has granted the order and that order basically says that the Immigration (Biometrics) Regulations, 2015 are null and void and are unconstitutional and an order of certiorari has been granted to quash it. So, as of now those regulations no longer exist,” Comissiong said after the ruling.
According to a report in Caribbean360, Comissiong’s attorneys challenged the measure on the grounds that an immigration officer had no right and power to prohibit or restrain a Barbadian citizen from leaving or entering the country if that person refused to provide the officer with biometric data. They also argued that the measure breached the rights of a citizen under Section 22 of the Barbados Constitution as well as the Immigration Act Chapter 190, and infringed on the statutory and lawful rights of a citizen or permanent resident.