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PICA to probe incident in which Ja-born visitor threatened with arrest

Published:Saturday | August 19, 2023 | 12:05 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer
Andrew Wynter, CEO of PICA
Andrew Wynter, CEO of PICA
The Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.
The Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.

The Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) is investigating an incident at Norman Manley International Airport in the early hours of last Friday, August 11, where a Jamaican national entering the country was threatened by an immigration officer with possible arrest.

Andrew Wynter, head of PICA, told The Gleaner that an investigation has been launched to determine the course of action to be taken.

“I am aware of the incident. I got the email from the offended visitor and reached out to apologise. We are investigating the incident. We need to be able to de-escalate incidents and if training is warranted we will undertake such action,” he told The Gleaner.

Dr. Rushell White, a deputy superintendent of schools in Brooklyn, New York, outlined in an email to Wynter that she and her 24-year-old son arrived at the airport at 3 a.m. on Friday, August 11. She noted that after deplaning and upon arrival at the immigration section of the airport, they proceeded to the kiosks as she normally does on arrival to the island. She said that on this occasion the kiosk was not working.

“I was met by a male agent who asked for my passport that he scanned. When the machine didn’t work, he said rudely, ‘how did you get to this kiosk?’ I answered that I walked over to it like I normally do in the past. He asked, ‘Did I invite you to the kiosk?’ I saidl ‘No, I didn’t see you or anyone else to direct anyone as to where to go. He rudely said, ‘Get to the back of the line.’ When my son and I walked to the line, we realised that the line went all the way back to the hallways as the people had amassed since we deplaned,” her email stated.

She said that the officers acted very unprofessionally and were rude.

“I arrived in the country of my birth with my son who had not visited Jamaica for some 10 years and this treatment is absolutely unacceptable, unwarranted and unfortunate because that experience will forever be etched in my son’s memory,” she said.

socially distanced

She said that she shared with another agent who was said to be a nurse, that she was recovering from COVID-19, three weeks now and wished to ‘stand off to the side and wait until it was our turn to be processed.’ “We ended up standing in the line that said special services. The supervisor came over to my son and I and said my son and I cannot be in the line because we would not be processed. I walked off that line and waited over to the side so as not to be in community with 300-400 passengers who were not socially distanced. He said he would not speak to me if I don’t get on the line,” she said.

She said that after waiting for more than an hour, the Immigration Officer rudely told us he would not process us together and for me to back away from his desk.

“I asked what was the problem? My son and I are travelling together. He became irate and said that he won’t process any of us. My son then told him he would back up so that I can be processed. I handed him my passport and immigration form and rested my phone on the counter. He asked whose phone it was and I told him it was mine. He then said you need to turn your phone off. I showed him the phone and said ‘It’s off and has been off’. He again became irate and began berating me saying that he will not process my documents and then called my son up to be processed. My son went up, handed him his passport and form and asked the officer- ‘Why are you disrespecting my mother like that?” He responded, “Your mother is rude and has an attitude.”


She said that (when) her son questioned the treatment being meted out by the officer he came from behind the desk in a confrontational manner asking what he was going to do about it. She said that the officer approached her son and she had to deescalate the situation.

“He began a tirade of how I think I’m special and who told me I was special. He threatened that he was going to “land my son and charge him for being disrespectful.” He took my son’s documents and went in a room to his supervisor. When he came back out, he asked if I was born in Jamaica and I responded yes. He shared that he can “land” me and send my son back to New York. I told him that he can send us both back because I would not have my son return to NY without going with him,” she recounted.

He then went back to the room and the supervisor called my son into the room. She spoke to my son and told him that he is to apologise to the officer. My son shared that he has no problem apologising to him, but that he too owed me an apology for being disrespectful.

“I am concerned that had I not known Jamaica and was a first-time visitor, that would be the lasting impression that I have. I am requesting a retraining of all immigration officers, but particularly for the officer and supervisor to create a welcoming and affirming environment when individuals visit this country. Tourism is a large part of the economy of Jamaica and these experiences will greatly deter visitors,” she said.