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Jean Rony Jean-Charles, the man at the center of a controversial immigration ruling that has attracted widespread national attention, landed back in The Bahamas from Haiti on Saturday afternoon, but was quickly taken into custody by immigration authorities after the judge in the matter agreed to an emergency stay of his judgment handed down nearly a week ago.
Jean-Charles is now back at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre, and his fate remains uncertain.
The emergency stay was granted until the judge hears an application today from the Office of the Attorney General seeking an extended stay of execution of the ruling until the appeal of the judgment is heard by the Court of Appeal.
Jean-Charles, who was first picked up by immigration authorities on Fire Trail Road last September, is a Haitian national, according to the Department of Immigration.
After he was picked up that first time, he was asked to produce documents and had no documents in his possession, according to the ruling.
Immigration officers took Jean-Charles to the detention center for further processing.
A month later, without ever seeing a day in court, Jean-Charles was “put on a plane and involuntarily taken to Haiti”.
It was reportedly his first time leaving The Bahamas.
Fred Smith, QC, filed an action in the court on his behalf and won the case.
Last Tuesday, Justice Gregory Hilton ordered the government to immediately issue a travel document to Jean-Charles to allow him to travel back to The Bahamas.
Hilton also ruled that Jean-Charles be paid the cost of the travel forthwith upon his return.
Additionally, the judge ordered that Jean-Charles be issued status to permit him to remain in The Bahamas within 60 days of him applying. He further ordered that the applicant be paid costs and compensation for breaches to his fundamental rights and liberties.
On Friday, the Office of the Attorney General appealed the matter, noting in court documents that the appeal has far-reaching implications and is a matter of national importance to the government and to the country as a whole, and a speedy resolution of the matter will provide clarity in the area of immigration law.
On Saturday evening, Attorney General Carl Bethel explained why he sought the emergency stay.
“On Friday, I reached out to Fred Smith, the attorney for Jean Rony, or the person who says he is Jean Rony, and indicated that we wanted to go to court that day in order to argue for a stay of execution of the judge’s order,” Bethel said.
He told The Nassau Guardian that Smith advised that he was in Freeport and would not be present in court on Friday.
The court then agreed that the application for a stay would be heard this afternoon (Monday).
“In the course of our discussion, Mr. Smith had indicated that Mr. [Jean-Charles] was in a very remote location and it would take a day and a half to get to Port-au-Prince; that the earliest flight that he could find from Port-au-Prince was the 13th of February, and that he would not be sending his own private plane to pick up Mr. [Jean-Charles] — all of which would create a certain impression in the mind of a reasonable person,” Bethel said.
“Then, to my shock, today (Saturday) I received an email about roughly 1:45 [p.m.] to myself and the minister of immigration indicating that they expect for Mr. [Jean-Charles] to be landing in The Bahamas at 2:30 [p.m.]. I think the actual time may have been 3 p.m. when he got in.
“I immediately contacted the judge, indicated the situation and requested an emergency stay of execution of his order pending the full hearing of the matter at the scheduled time and date.
“The judge readily complied. Mr. Smith, when I told him, asked for the judge’s number, which I had only just gotten. I had managed to find the judge’s number by asking around. I gave the number to Mr. Smith.
“I think Mr. Smith reported that he had spoken to the judge and the judge remained firm in the ruling which he gave on the matter that his [ruling] be stayed, which meant that any landing in The Bahamas by Mr. [Jean-Charles] would have been contrary to the stay of execution, which meant that the order that the judge had made that he be allowed to land was delayed as of this afternoon until not earlier than the end of the hearing on Monday afternoon at which time he would make the determination whether the person would be allowed to land.”
Smith said on Saturday he was shocked that the emergency stay was issued.
“I don’t know what games [Immigration] Minister Brent Symonette and Attorney General Carl Bethel are playing in the Jean Rony case,” he said, adding that Jean-Charles arrived from Haiti on Flamingo Air.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in conjunction with Mr. Symonette, had a travel document issued, an emergency travel document, and Mr. Symonette asked me to confirm when [Mr. Jean-Charles] would be arriving, and I did so today once Jean Rony was on a flight, and the next thing I knew was that Mr. Bethel had obtained an emergency stay of the judgment from the Supreme Court.
“I take the position that there is nothing to stay in respect of the travel document because the government already complied with that part of the judge’s ruling.
“It seems a bit perverse that they would issue a travel document, my client would then travel on it, and then they would apply for a stay.”
Asked why he would seek a stay of the ruling after the government granted Jean-Charles a travel document, the attorney general explained: “The minister of foreign affairs is simply seeking on his part to carry out a court order. And a court order has validity until it is countermanded by the court or by a higher court.
“So it would only have been upon the court granting a stay that the minister would have been able not to comply with the order. Every order takes effect from the moment it is pronounced.”
Smith said his side wishes to have damages assessed.
He told The Nassau Guardian last week that he intends to seek substantial damages.
In the meantime, he will argue against the stay being kept in place.
“I don’t understand why they (the government) are making such a big fuss about this poor, young man who was born in The Bahamas 35 years ago and [had] never been out of the country. What’s the big deal with Jean Rony?” Smith asked.
“A person belongs where they were born, and he knows no other home. Why not do the honorable thing and simply give him citizenship when he returns? What’s the big deal?”
Smith said he spoke to Jean-Charles while he was still in Haiti on Saturday morning and he was “happy and excited to be returning home”.
He said he had not spoken to him since he was detained once again but imagined Jean-Charles is “terrified” over the latest development in the matter.
Asked why Jean-Charles did not apply for citizenship after he turned 18 (as permitted by the Bahamas constitution), Smith said that was something he could not speak to.
Smith added that this matter has tremendous implications for all of those who were “unlawfully expelled from The Bahamas who were also born here”.
Even without the Jean-Charles ruling, people who fall in that category should take legal action “for their unconstitutional expulsion”, he added.
The application for a stay is scheduled to be heard before Hilton at 3 p.m. today.
For more articles like this one, pick up a copy of The Nassau Guardian.