Stateless no more
A Barbadian version of the Tom Hanks movie in which a man is stranded in an airport with no nationality entered its final scenes today as the once-stateless man prepares to return to his native Dominican Republic.
Like the 2004 film The Terminal, Juan Abraham Ramirez Rijo, 35, has been caught in legal limbo, a non-national who was unable to return because he had no travel or identity papers and his homeland would not accept him back until he could provide them.
But unlike the movie, in which Hanks’s character was stuck at the airport terminal, the construction worker was moved from the airport detention centre to Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds pending repatriation to the Dominican Republic by weekend.
The Immigration Department has finally obtained travel documents for the stranded Ramirez who was among 13 people rescued by a passing cruise ship en route to Barbados on December 20. He was picked up from a small vessel which was adrift 47 nautical miles from Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico.
Immigration Officer Terry Simmons today told the District ‘A’ Magistrate Douglas Frederick: “We have received the travel documents… and the next available flight is Saturday.”
Simmons told the court the department could purchase his ticket home as early at today to facilitate his one-way flight to Santo Domingo.
The magistrate agreed and ordered Ramirez brought to the court tomorrow from Dodds to break the news to him officially.
The stranded 13, including a pregnant woman, were medically examined, found to be in good health, and were housed “in a secure location” here until they were identified, the court was told. They were also allowed to contact family and friends in an effort to return home. After being held here for two weeks, all but Ramirez has secured documents for their return.
Thus began a wrangle with authorities in Santo Domingo who refused to admit Ramirez unless he could prove his identity and nationality.
Ramirez’s frustration reached boiling point in a violent outburst two months ago when Ramirez, who had listed his address as Calle Sanches, Casa 112, San Pedro, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was remanded to Dodds for almost two months for criminal damage he admitted he did at the airport detention centre where he was being held initially.
He admitted to damaging an external door, two door locks and hardware, a washroom doorframe and drywall were damaged as the stranded man became belligerent, the court was told.
It was revealed on his first appearance in court on April 6, that Ramirez had defecated in the room and placed some of the faeces inside a Styrofoam container and pushed it under the door. He also held onto the door and shook it until it was damaged. His actions were caught on CCTV camera.
Magistrate Frederick ordered Ramirez to be transported from the St Philip prison directly to the airport and deported once the arrangements are completed.