The fate of four Haitians and a Dominican is in the hands of Magistrate Pearl Williams who will later this week hand down her sentence against the men who pleaded guilty to attempted illegal exit.
Last month, the police had reported that seven Haitians and two Dominicans were intercepted by the Dominica Coast Guard following their attempt to exit the state illegally.
The men were placed in the government quarantine facility in Portsmouth whilst the police investigated the matter.
On April 1, 2021, four of the Haitians, Celes Benoit, Wisken Saint-Pierre, Wilvensky Joseph and Asly Tibeau, appeared before the court where the charges were read to them and they all pleaded guilty.
According to the facts of the case, on Monday, March 22, 2021, about 9:00 a.m, the Commonwealth of Dominica Coast Guard responded to a call from the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) of Martinique about a boat named One Shot which was in distress about four nautical miles outside of Scotts Head.
Coast Guard Officers, aboard a Coast Guard vessel, went in search of the boat on the south of the island but they were unable to locate the men in that area.
“The crew then moved west of Scotts Head where they noticed some disturbance and saw an open keel vessel named ‘One Shot’ registration #J7090SFE powered by one 60 horsepower Yamaha engine. The Officers identified the boat as that reported by the MRCC and escorted the passengers to the Coast Guard Base,” the court report stated.
On arrival, the passengers were asked to disembark. Personnel attached to the Crime Investigation Department (CID) processed the men and Custom Officers searched their belongings before they were transferred to the government quarantine facility.
Following their quarantine period, one of the men, Tibeau, informed the police during an interview that they were on their way to Martinique when they experienced engine problems and someone aboard their vessel called the authorities in Martinique for assistance. The men were then charged.
At the hearing, attorney-at-law Wayne Norde who represented three of the Haitians, pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy stating that the men attempted to leave the country in search of a better life for themselves and their families.
He further pleaded that Benoit, aged 21, and a mason by profession and Joseph 26, and Saint-Pierre 29, both farmers, had no prior conviction and had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, not wasting the court’s time.
“Your Honour from what the men told me, it became very difficult to get an extension on their time even after having entered Dominica very easily in 2018 and 2019. They all have ties in Dominica, family and friends some of whom are in court today and they have family in Haiti who they support so we ask that you impose a non-custodial sentence and instead set a reasonable fine to be paid,” he stated.
Tibeau, who mitigated on his own behalf through an interpreter, told Magistrate Williams that he suffered from cataracts and he had tried on several occasions to get assistance in Dominica for his illness.
According to him, following many failed attempts, he had requested to be deported back to Haiti but immigration officials denied his request.
“…if I went to Martinique, I was hoping that they would send me back to Haiti because if I don’t get treatment for my eye it will get worse. I have a family to take care of,” he added.
Police Prosecutor, Inspector Davidson Cadette, made an application for a removal order for the men on behalf of the Chief Immigration Officer.
However, Norde objected to the application as he stated he was not aware the such would have been presented to the court.
Magistrate Williams agreed with Norde and informed Inspector Cadette that any application presented to the court must first be filed.
The sentencing was adjourned to April 8, 2021.
Delbert Michael Xavier of Scotts Head also pleaded guilty to attempting to assist in illegal exit.
His matter was also adjourned to the same date for facts and sentencing.
The five men were remanded in custody.