Turks and Caicos releases Sri Lankan refugees from detention after 10 months

Fri, 21 Aug 2020

On 20 August 2020 and during the hearing of what was the third writ of habeas corpus in respect of “smuggled” Sri Lankan national and 1 Indian nation, the Minister of Border Control and Employment notified his decision that all remaining Sri Lankan, and one Indian national, detainees being held at the immigration centre in Providenciales would be released subject to conditions that he wished to impose. As the writ had been issued and was being heard by the time this decision was made known on behalf of the TCI government, the unconditional release of 5 Sri Lankans was sought and obtained by Order of Lobban-Jackson J.

This action came following work since late February by Prudhoe Caribbean, a firm based in the TCI, headed by Tim Prudhoe, and assisted by the firm’s Mikhail Charles and Yuri Saunders. Philip Rule of No5 Chambers assisted the detainees advising and assisting in the settling of the perfected appeal notice for 3 appellants to challenge an earlier refusal to direct release upon a previous habeas corpus application in respect of 15  individuals. Philip is instructed to attend the Court of Appeal on that earlier refusal, with a hearing set for September.

The detainees’ cause was taken up by Prudhoe Caribbean after the plight of the refugees, who had been detained since October 2019, came to light by chance. They had been afforded no access to any lawyers since being detained, and indeed the firm faced a continuing battle to have any access to the detainees, left without even translation or interpretation assistance from the government. Having made a journey of around 10,000 miles a group of primarily Sri Lankan nationals arrived by boat in the waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands and were detained on arrival in TCI on 10 October 2019. They are victims of human trafficking, for which a Canadian national faces prosecution in the United States of America - https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/canadian-faces-human-smuggling-charges-in-u-s-after-turks-and-caicos-prison-stint-1.5072136?cache=zviomxnayn%3FclipId%3D104069.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission recognised refugee status for 3 other Sri Lanka detainees, but so far has not been permitted access by the TCI Government to those released by order yesterday. It is hoped that the release yesterday will speed up the processing of the asylum applications many of the detainees have wished for many months to have considered. Via the TCI courts Mr Prudhoe continues to have the constitutional and common law rights of these vulnerable individuals considered.

Philip Rule is Head of the Public Law Group at No5 Barristers' Chambers, and practises human rights, immigration and detention law. He has experience of working in the Caribbean region, including previous successful Court of Appeal appearances leading to reported cases.

Tim Prudhoe is a barrister of the English bar, practising from Outer Temple Chambers, and an attorney of several Caribbean jurisdictions including over 20 years’ experience in the Turks and Caicos Islands https://prudhoecaribbean.com/tim-prudhoe/

 

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