Judge says Heliport not a detention center; orders release of 6 Venezuelans

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Judge says Heliport not a detention center; orders release of 6 Venezuelans

Six Venezuelan migrants were released from the Defence Force Heliport in Chaguaramas on Tuesday.

The six were among over 100 Venezuelan migrants, who were detained during a raid at a bar in St James on July 9th.

High Court judge, Avason Quinlan-Williams, issued the order yesterday on the basis that the Defence Force Heliport in Chaguaramas was not a designated immigration detention centre.

“The rule of law should be that any national, in this case, the claimant, shouldn’t be carried anywhere, anyhow, because they are carried there…We are a society governed by rules and regulations.”

According to the judge, evidence led on behalf of the Chief of Defence Staff – who was named as the defendant in the habeas corpus applications – did not show that the minister (of National Security) had not designated the heliport as an immigration detention centre.

“In what circumstances can the court find that her detention is lawful? The applicant is detained at a place not designated as an immigration centre today.

“The designation has to be approved by the minister. The return (response by the State to the application) does not say anywhere that the minister has approved the heliport as an immigration centre.

“Based on the application and evidence that supported it, the court orders the immediate release of the applicant,” the judge said at a hearing just before 10.30 pm on Monday.

Between 10.30 pm on Monday and 9 am on Tuesday, Justice Quinlan-Williams ordered the release of the six migrants who filed the applications on Sunday.

Attorney John Heath, SC, who represented the CDS, said that the heliport was a lawful detention centre according to the Immigration Act. He also argued that the CDS was not the proper party to the application filed by attorneys Gerald Ramdeen and Dayadai Harripaul for the six. He contended it should have been the Chief Immigration Officer.

“Is it an immigration station today?” the judge questioned, “He must designate or authorise, it must be obvious. We must know it.” The judge said that based on the evidence before her, the designation had an end date when the pandemic was officially declared over.

So far, some 60 Venezuelan nationals have been released.

Some of the others are represented by attorneys from the law firm Quantum Legal.