Soon enough

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart will shortly determine the fate of former Cuban drug convict, Raul Gracia, who remained in prison despite serving out his time on the drug crime.

Stuart, who is also responsible for Immigration, made the announcement this morning during a brief interview with reporters, soon after welcoming 47 children of the Unique Helping Hands Day Camp to Ilaro Court for an educational tour.

“Mr Garcia, as you know, completed a term of imprisonment as a result of a conviction of the courts here in Barbados. He spent, as far as I can recall, about 15 or so years in prison. Now, since the expiry of his prison term, he has been retained at prison for a considerable time because, there are some complications around his immigration status,” explained Stuart.

“We are having some difficulty in finding a country that will take Mr Garcia,” he pointed out.

The Prime Minister noted that while the former drug convict is a Cuban national, that Spanish-speaking Caribbean island’s laws did not allow it, in the present circumstances, to take him. He also observed that two other countries – United States and Colombia — with which he has had connections, were reluctant to accept him as well.

“I have heard it said in public that he is a stateless citizen. That is not strictly correct. That may be factually so, but in legal terms, it is not… One of the exceptions under international law in the definition of a stateless person, is a person who has not been convicted of a serious criminal offence, and of course, he falls within that exception,” added Stuart.

The prime minister said the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was in Barbados recently and she made a call with respect to Garcia’s release.

“His concern is that although he has, as it were, paid his debt to society in terms of serving his prison term, that he is still held at a prison. We do not have, or have not had facilities here outside of prison facilities to hold a subject of immigration considerations as long as the prison has had to hold Mr Garcia, because we never contemplated having to face this situation,” argued Stuart.

He noted that normally in situations like this, a person would be held at the airport because authorities would already know where the person was being sent.

“This is one situation where we don’t know where we are going to send Mr Garcia. As minister responsible for immigration, I have a discretion to determine where persons in Mr Garcia’s position are held,” asserted Stuart.

The prime minister revealed that he had received representation from the Cuban’s attorney-at-law David Comissiong regarding his release and relocation to a private residence. “I have been receiving representations from his attorney-at-law,

Mr David Comissiong, that private arrangements could be made for Mr Garcia to be accommodated at a pirvate residence in a rural parish where this rural family is prepared to take him at no cost to the government; and they are prepared to take him on such terms as are satisfactory to me,” disclosed Stuart.

He told reporters that the alternative was for the Government to ready some kind of accommodation where he could be held in a manner consistent with what his administration considered to be safe and doing no violence to national security.

“I am examining the options at the moment. I do not think Mr. Garcia should be held at Dodds Prison indefinitely. He served his prison term and as long as he is there, he is going to be kept under prison conditions. So I don’t think he needs to remain there indefinitely, but at the same time, I have to have regard to all of the other considerations that would attach to putting him at a private facility, just to be managed by a family and so on,” he added.

The prime minister insisted that the crime for which Garcia was convicted would have had grave implications for Barbados, had he not been caught and prosecuted.

“And one always has to be very careful that one does not delude oneself into believing that some miraculous change has taken place and that sinners overnight have become saints and so on. I intend no injustice to Mr Garcia, but I have to make sure that the national security of Barbados is properly protected,” he declared. (EJ)

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