(St Lucia Times) – It was an act of desperation and a chance to provide for his family that led a Guyanese man to jump off a cement boat and swim to shore.
That was the defence put forward by attorney-at-law Jamar Bourne as he mitigated on behalf of 36-year-old Colis Arlington Paul, of no fixed place of abode, but who said he lived at Rices, St Philip.
Paul pleaded guilty before Chief Magistrate Ian Weekes to entering Barbados by sea except than at a port of entry and disembarking without the consent of an immigration officer.
The offences occurred between June 6, 2019 and January 27 this year.
Acting on information received, Coast Guard officials conducted maritime surveillance off Batts Rock, St Michael around 7:09 a.m. on January 27.
Prosecutor Victoria Taitt said during that time they observed and intercepted the accused about three nautical miles off Batts Rock with two other persons aboard the vessel Slice of life registration number S282.
Paul was detained and taken to the Coast Guard base for further investigation where a PCR COVID-19 test was conducted and he was taken to Paragon base where he was quarantined.
He subsequently received a negative COVID-19 test and was taken to a police station and questioned. Information from immigration officials revealed that he left Barbados in June 2019 via air but there was no record of him re-entering the country.
He did not give a written statement to police but told officers that he did leave the island legally. He explained that he lost his passport in Guyana.
“A year and a month ago I hitch a ride by secretly getting onboard a vessel . . . which was responsible for transporting cement into Barbados and when I average it was close enough to the shore, I swim to shore and remained in the island,” he told police at the time.
The prosecutor told the court that efforts to get an address for Paul were futile and he was not in possession of any identification. He admitted that he did not have any and initially gave his name as Dexter Paul.
In Paul’s defence Bourne told the District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Court that his client has three children ages seven, five and three and works as a fisherman, labourer and handyman.
“I was instructed that in Guyana it was difficult to find work and to support his children. His situation became dire and he became a desperate man,” the lawyer explained adding that because of better job opportunities and better payment here he took the chance in order to “send money to his family so his children can eat”.
The defence lawyer said his client did not waste the court’s time, pleading guilty at the first opportunity.
“The offences are not of a violent nature. We see with refugees and the dire situation around the world and he is no different. I am urging the court to show some leniency. He was a desperate man trying to feed his family . . . asking the court to take that into consideration in sentencing,” Bourne said. He urged the court to impose a sentence that would keep Paul’s record clean.
Under questioning by Chief Magistrate Weekes, Paul revealed that he loves Barbados “1 000 per cent”.
Asked why he didn’t take the legal route by getting the necessary papers in order, Paul replied, “One day I was working on the cement boat . . . and a day I said Barbados is my home from home and I seized the moment.”
However, the magistrate informed him that he had taken a huge risk but “I appreciate the challenges that you have faced”.
Weekes reprimanded and discharged him on both charges but ordered that Paul be handed over to immigration and for him to pay his own ticket back to Guyana.
But Immigration officer Terry Simmons said there were a few issues with this case. He revealed that a decision had been taken not to detain anyone at the airport due to the COVID-19 situation. Additionally, Paul would need a 72-hour PCR test as mandated by authorities in Guyana before he could board a flight to Georgetown. The department also needed to get permission from the airline in order to get him repatriated and due to the health crisis that request needed to be made 48 hours prior.
The immigration officer said they were also confronted with a situation where Paul had no identification or travel documents and the consulate would have to be contacted in order to get the necessary process underway once it was verified that Paul was a national of Guyana.
“There is a lot involved in the process given COVID,” Simmons said adding that they would find “a solution” in terms of housing Paul.