A Trinidad and Tobago high court judge on Tuesday slammed the Immigration Division of Port of Spain saying it is in crisis. The judge was awarding Mustapha Touray, a Gambian, 500 thousand US Dollars out the 1.5 million Touray asked for in compensation for his unlawful detention for over 400 days.
Mustapha Touray had entered Trinidad and Tobago illegally in March 2017 and a detention order was made against him on August 14, 2017. He was detained at the IDC and the state attempted to deport him in April 2018 but he was refused entry by Turkey where he would have been in transit on his way to Gambia.
Touray returned to the IDC and after a writ of habeas corpus was filed he was ordered released on July 5, 2019 by the high court. Touray was represented by attorney Gerald Ramdeen, Umesh Maharaj and Dayadai Harripaul. The State was unrepresented in the matter.
The Gambian claimed he was “falsely incarcerated without lawful authority by the defendant and that the acts of the defendant in detaining him from June 1, 2018 to July 5, 2019 were humiliating, undignified, occurred in distressing circumstances and caused him severe mental suffering, frustration and humiliation.”
The judge said, “It is unfortunate that the State has abdicated its responsibility to assist the court and it did not file a defence nor was explanation proffered as to what are the operative circumstances which militated against the claimant’s deportation and why a decision was taken to detain him at tax payers expense for over 400 days.“
Justice Seepersad said there could be no dispute that Touray was deprived of his liberty and was previously detained in 2017 until his unsuccessful deportation in 2018. He said his detention from April 2018 could have “shocked” his system. The judge ordered that Touray be awared $500,000 inclusive of an uplift for aggravated damages and interest of 2.5% per annum from the date of filing these proceedings.
Justice Seepersad said Touray’s complaints were overstated and exaggerated and rejected what he termed the absurd and unrealistic submission to award him damages between $1.2 to $1.5 million.
The judge said the conditions of the IDC were disturbing but so too was the plight of thousands due to the Covid-19 pandemic.