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Human rights activist Jeanie Ollivierre has been criticized for her role in facilitating Vincentian "refugees" fleeing to Canada.

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Vincentian international law specialist Dr. Richard Byron-Cox has slammed former Gender Affairs Department head Jeanie Ollivierre for statement she reported made to a Canadian newspaper about the abuse of women here.

Ollivierre is quoted by the Canadian Star as saying that in a small country like St. Vincent, women have no place to hide from their abuser.

Her comments were part of an article documenting the infamy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a major source of refugee claims in Canada.

Ollivierre, public relations officer of the local Human Right Association, reportedly told the newspaper that she sees as many as 50 women a week, all victims of domestic abuse.

In some cases, the women are so threatened Ollivierre has paid out of pocket for them to flee to Canada, the article says.

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But Cox, who is based in Germany, said on radio this week that this country has the legal and institutions framework to deal with battered women.

“Doesn’t it say something about what happened under Miss Ollivierre’s watch if none of these systems worked?” Cox said, noting Ollivierre’s former position in the Gender Affairs Department — under the now opposition New Democratic Party administration.

“Miss Ollivierre paid a role in putting some of these things in place and, if they are malfunctioning, I think that she also has to take some of the blame.

“… What is interesting here to note is … that the same institutions that she has developed have failed so badly and the institution she works with now are so useless that the only answer she has is exporting the problem,” Cox said.

“ … in other words, you are saying to me, you have not even any faith in the very organisation you work for that is suppose to be helping in this …

“I mean something is terribly wrong here. It reflects badly, to say the least, on the organisation she works for and which is suppose to help protect whoever should be protected,” he further said.

Cox said that under international law Vincentians do not qualify for refugee status in Canada.

Dr. Richard Byron-Cox says refugee claims in Canada are giving this country a bad name.

“… we have internal systems that work and we do have recourse to,” he said, adding, “What is your motive, purpose and reason for doing what they want to do?”

Cox, who said that he did not read the article, said that Olliverre’s claim of seeing as many as 50 abused women a week would mean that “every single woman and girl in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been abused”.

“Every one of them should run and go to Canada. You don’t think so?” he said.

“You’re painting a terrible picture of the country. That is what you are doing,” Cox said.

“So, the question is: why are you doing that; for what purpose and for what reason?

“… I do believe … you are presenting a case, and I am saying this now as a lawyer, that if you are presenting a case and you have no evidence, you can’t win.

“And all these young women who are doing all that sort of nonsense in Canada, tell them I say based on that treaty of 1951 and the protocol of ‘67, they cannot and will not succeed in the courts of Canada,” Cox said in reference to the international protocol governing international refugees.

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