A website of the Barbados Free Press, has published a story which claims one of the Ghanaian women in detention at Paragon, a military base in the Caribbean island of Barbados has been sexually assaulted while in custody.
We cannot confirm nor deny this story, but the source of the story was a letter which was written by a Barbadian politician, which is also published together with the story.
The victim is part of the 153 passengers who travelled to the island on the maiden flight of Ghana International Airlines (GIA) in February.
Please read on:
One of the Ghanaian women stranded in Barbados when the Ghana International Airways charter failed to return to the island was sexually assaulted while in the custody of the Barbados Defense Forces - according to a letter purportedly released by Barbados politician David Comissiong.
The April 15, 2008 letter which is reprinted in its entirety at the end of this article, states that the Royal Barbados Police Force is investigating.
The letter also states that the African detainees were told they would be subject to sniper gun fire if they tried to leave the Barbados Defense Force base where they are being held.
When our police, immigration officers or military personnel take persons into custody, they and their organisation become entirely responsible for their care and well being. This is a duty that has long be recognised in courts in the UK, USA, Canada and around the world.
What if the woman was your sister, your wife, your mother who was locked in a barracks with dozens of unknown men whose only connection was they happened to be on the same flight?
If we missed the coverage of this story in the Barbados news media, please let us know - but for now it looks like no one else has reported that one of the female detainees was sexually assaulted while in government custody.
As to the allegation that detainees were told that they would be shot if they attempted to leave the military base, again we can find no record of this being reported in the Barbados media.
These two issues would seem to be an important part of the Ghana International Airways charter flight disaster. Barbadians should be asking themselves “What else hasn't the Barbados media been reporting?”
Full text of the April 15, 2008 David Comissiong letter as published on BN Village
GLOBAL AFRIKAN CONGRESS
Israel Lovell Foundation
Tel. (246) 437-3113
My Lord's Hill Fax: (246) 437-8216ST MICHAEL
15 April 2008
URGENT REPORT ON AFRICANS INCARCERATED IN BARBADOS
It is my duty to report that on Tuesday 8th April 2008, the Government of Barbados commenced a “crackdown” on 96 citizens of Ghana and Nigeria who have been stranded in Barbados since their charter flight failed to return for them on the 15th of February 2008.
On Saturday 12th April 2008, a small team of GAC officials visited 32 Ghanaians and Nigerians at the Barbados Defence Force's military camp situate at “Paragon” in the parish of Christ Church.
The camp is enclosed by a high wire fence and is guarded by armed soldiers. We found the 32 West African being held in a fenced area deep within the camp.
Four members of our team, including myself, were afforded the opportunity to speak to the West Africans in private.
The majority of them gave us the following explanation as to how they came to be at the Paragon base:-
1. Having been informed that the Chief Immigration Officer of Barbados wanted to see them at the Immigration Department to “brief” them about efforts being made to return them to Ghana, they made their way to the Immigration Department on Tuesday 8th April 2008.
2. At the Immigration Department, they were informed by the Chief Immigration Officer that the Government had made a decision to place all them in the Defence Force base at “Paragon”, pending the arrival of an airplane to take them back to Ghana.
3. They were then taken into custody by Immigration and armed Police Officers, and were initially taken to the Barbados Port, where they were subjected to a medical examination.
4. They were taken from the Port to their respective homes by Immigration and Police Officers, and were ordered to collect their personal belongings.
5. And finally, they were transported to the Paragon Army base by the Immigration Department, accompanied by Police vehicles with sirens blaring.
2. One of the Ghanaians- a Mr. Patrick Adjei- recounted how Immigration Officers came to his home at 2 o'clock in the morning and took him into custody.
All of the West Africans at Paragon felt that they were under detention, and confirmed that they could not leave the precincts of the Army base. They also told us that they had been warned by the authorities that if they went over and beyond the perimeter fence of the base that they would be subjected to “sniper gun fire”.
At one stage, I passed around a pen and a sheet of paper and asked them to indicate which of them had Barbadian homes to which they could return, and which ones needed us to arrange accommodation for them with Barbadian families.
It was while this exercise was taking place that an Immigration Officer and two soldiers entered the room and requested that we leave the base.
The reality now is that 32 West Africans, none of whom has committed any criminal offence in Barbados, are incarcerated in a military “prison”, and have been in this condition for one week now.
We also subsequently learnt about a few other West Africans who are in the custody of the Immigration Department at another non-military facility. One of these detainees - a Ghanian woman - was sexually assaulted while in detention; and the matter is now engaging the attention of the Royal Barbados Police Force.
The Barbados Chapter of the GAC has obtained offers and commitments from numerous Barbadians to accommodate the West African detainees at their homes, but the Government perversely refuses to allow these, our African brothers and sisters, to return to the bosom of Barbadian civil society pending the arrival of an airplane to take them home.
The Government publicly insists that they are not deporting these stranded Ghanaians and Nigerians, yet they continue to deprive them of their freedom and to hold them against their will. And although they have been incarcerated for a week they have not been afforded the opportunity to speak to the News Media to tell their side of the story: officialdom has been speaking for them and putting words in their mouths.
Over 60 of the stranded West Africans remain at large in the Barbadian society. Because of the horrific events of Tuesday 8th April 2008 many of them are now too scared to go into the Immigration Authorities.
The GAC is convinced that if these were stranded Europeans or North Americans that they would not be treated in this manner.
We now appeal to all agencies that can play a role in coming to the assistance and rescue of our incarcerated guests to make the effort to do so.
DAVID A. COMISSIONG