Married and single Vincentian men are said to have called Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves complaining about his decision to deport, a few years ago, some 50 women from the Dominican Republic, who were suspected to have been sex workers.
Gonsalves had made the decision to deport the women after getting complains from wives and girlfriends of Vincentian men, he told Parliament on Thursday.
The prime minister’s comments came as he gave examples of what his government has been doing to combat the trafficking in persons.
He was speaking in the aftermath of Interpol and BBC press releases in April about a raid conducted in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as part of a regional operation that included 12 other countries.
Gonsalves said that just before the anti-human trafficking law was passed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, there was a situation where some 50 young ladies from the Dominican Republic came to SVG “ostensibly to go to holiday in Mustique”.
The prime minister said that a young and inexperienced immigration officer allowed them to stay in St. Vincent for a few days before travelling onwards to the Grenadine island.
“… and the next thing I know, I was getting a lot of telephone calls from irate girlfriends and wives about the activities of these persons.
“I had the Commissioner of Police immediately address the question, call in the two or three ringleaders, including somebody from St. Vincent and I got the report and I told the commissioner, well, they say they have no money to go back to the Dominican Republic, what they want to do is to stay here to make some money to go back.
“So, I chartered a plane and I deported all of them one day. Deported every single one of them,” the prime minister said.
“At the airport, it was reported to me that some who could speak English said that the prime minister here is a crazy man. Well, I don’t mind being crazy on things like that,” Gonsalves said.
He added: “Just as a footnote to this, Mr. Speaker, after they had been deported, a few husbands and other single men began to call me and email me and ask me what have I done.”
The prime minister said that over the Easter period, he got a call from “a very responsible gentleman” saying that another friend, “who is also a responsible man” had a problem in that immigration officials had detained his 15-year-old son, who had been sent from Trinidad to visit him.
The boy’s mother has sent him with a letter saying that he was going to spend time with his father over the Easter holidays in St. Vincent, Gonsalves said.
“But the immigration … detained the youngster because the letter was not notarised. They did not consider this a sufficient letter to allow this child to travel and they were saying that the airline ought not to have put the child on the plane with just a simple letter without it being notarised.”
Gonsalves said that upon further inquiry the child was allowed to enter St. Vincent.
The prime minister, giving another example, said that there was a Chinese restaurant in SVG, which he had been told was one of the better ones that had “three or four persons who had work permits to work at this restaurant, including a husband and wife, who were the owners.
“And the next thing, I saw an application for work permits for eight persons. I immediately sent for the files and I revoked the work permit of the two workers other than the two owners and had them leave the country. They pulled up stakes from that location and they went to St. Lucia.”
Gonsalves said he wrote the then prime minister of St. Lucia so that they could keep an eye on what is taking place.
“I give this to show the manner in which we address this question. We do so in a vigorous way,” the prime minister said.
“Mr. Speaker, it is a matter which we are very, very focused and sensitive on,” he told Parliament.