A 31-year-old Haitian man who says he was forced to flee his homeland to save his life is now seeking political asylum in Barbados.
“I have political persecution in my country, Haiti, and I [fled] here to Barbados to save my life,” Jean Wilny Michel told online newspaper Barbados Today on the steps of the Supreme Court where his case for asylum is being heard.
The computer scientist and television broadcast technician arrived in Bridgetown last September and was given a six-month stay as a visitor, which expired on March 25. But before his time was up, attorney-at-law Lalu Hanuman filed an urgent writ seeking refuge for Michel.
Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson is hearing the matter which is believed to be the first of its kind in the country.
Following a 15-minute hearing in the High Court, Hanuman explained: “Our application was for political asylum in Barbados because of the repression he was undergoing in Haiti. The Chief Justice, in a very humanitarian and perceptive order back on March 26, ruled that that there should be a stay of deportation pending a decision by the Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson on the application for political asylum.
“He is part of the opposition in Haiti and suffered persecution as a result, so he is really seeking sanctuary in Barbados from political oppression back in Haiti; he is seeking a safe haven.”
But Hanuman said Barbados has no prior precedent, “as far as we are aware”, of anybody being granted political asylum.
“Political asylum in Barbados is something unknown really. Barbados hasn’t ratified the 1951 Convention of Refugees so it is not something that has been previously done in Barbados, so it is creating jurisprudence in Barbados in that effect,” the attorney added.
The sitting resulted in the Chief Justice asking for more information and research on the matter, especially as Haiti is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and with Barbados opening its borders to skilled nationals from Haiti under the CARICOM Single Market (CSM).
“The Chief Justice wants us to investigate whether…despite him not having all his documentation, if he could possibly still qualify for the CSM programme regardless of the lack of adequate documentation,” Hanuman explained.
“He doesn’t have his certificates; he doesn’t even have his birth certificate with him, for example, academic certificates and so on….[The Chief Justice] is saying in the circumstances, despite the lack of documentation, maybe we should still try to do the CSM process and if that fails then to come back and pursue the political asylum avenue.”
In the meantime, Michel has been given indefinite leave to remain in Barbados pending the political asylum determination. (Adapted from Barbados Today)