Freedom of movement case fails at Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Citizens of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) “have important rights but to exercise these rights clear documentary evidence of their nationality is required.” This was the ruling handed down Wednesday 29 May 2019, by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the case of Bain vs Trinidad and Tobago.

  • Bain, a citizen of both the United States and Grenada, had maintained that his right to freedom of movement was violated when he was refused entry into the twin-island state when entering from Grenada before midnight December 14, 2017.     

It’s recorded that at that time, he identified himself as an American citizen, providing just his US passport, as his Grenadian passport had expired some years earlier.

Upon alighting at Piarco International Airport, immigration officers interviewed him regarding information they had obtained about a man with the identical name who has convictions on drug-related offences.

Even though he disavowed any drug convictions, Bain was denied entry and was deported to Grenada on an early flight the next day even though he had also told the immigration officials that he was a citizen of Grenada and therefore authorised to freedom of movement in CARICOM countries.

As proof of his citizenship, Bain had produced his Grenadian driver’s licence, which stated that he was a Grenadian citizen. He also showed his Grenadian voter’s identification card, which stated that he was born in Grenada. Also, his US passport also listed Grenada as his country of birth. Bain then argued that the documents should have been enough to invoke his right to freedom of movement.

In its judgment, the regional court determined that, while there was no doubt that Bain is a Grenadian citizen, he did not present sufficient documentation to prove it to the immigration officers.

The court stated that the presentation of the Grenadian driver’s licence and voter’s identification card was not sufficient as unlike the Grenadian passport, neither document was meant to serve as evidence of citizenship and also, they were neither machine-readable nor designed to be stamped by immigration officials.

The court also rejected the argument that the notation in Bain’s US passport that he was born in Grenada conclusively proved citizenship.

It was also noted that it was possible that Bain could have renounced his citizenship or have it stripped away by the Grenadian government, while mere birth in a country does not always automatically evidence citizenship.

The CCJ considered whether Bain waived his right to free movement as a national of Grenada when he presented his US passport.

The court noted that if someone with dual citizenship exercises their rights attached to one nationality, it does not eliminate their other nationality and the rights attached to that citizenship.

“Therefore, if Mr Bain was denied entry based on his US passport, he could still claim his rights under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas if he could forthwith prove that he is Grenadian citizen,” the court noted.

The court also relied on submissions from the Caribbean Community which stated that the “appropriate travel document to invoke the right of freedom of movement is the CARICOM passport or a passport issued by a CARICOM member state.”

The CCJ concluded that all the documents Bain presented did not conclusively establish his Grenadian nationality.

The CCJ dismissed the claims against Trinidad and Tobago and ordered the parties to bear their costs.

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