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Is keeping African national James Kojo Efrimea in jail to release evidence of extortion by corrupt immigration officers legally correct?

Posted: Saturday, September 9, 2023. 6:37 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: A native of Sierra Leone who claims Immigration Department officers practiced extortion on him back in July is still detained, according to his family attorney, and they won’t let him leave Belize yet despite the department earlier compelling him to do so.

Orson Elrington further claims the Immigration Department wants his client, James Kojo Efrimea, to testify against their officers who he claims he paid to leave.

Now, Elrington is about to take the matter to the High Court, where he will make an application for habeas corpus – Latin for “You shall produce the body.”

What he wants is an explanation from authorities as to why Efrimea continues to be held and what it will take to get him released.

Efrimea is a Sierra Leone national who in late July accused Immigration officers of extortion after being issued an order to leave for allegedly over spending his time in Belize. He was deemed a prohibited immigrant who was not fined when he went to court but remains in custody at the Belize Central Prison.

His family back home have no answers materializing after several contacts with the Immigration Department and the Ombudsman’s office to inquire about why he has not been sent back home. They contacted and retained Elrington on August 29.

As Elrington explained it, he believes Efrimea’s Constitutional rights are being violated, most particularly his rights to liberty within Belize.

Efrimea claims he was extorted by Immigration Officers at the Philip Goldson International Airport on arrival; they claim he failed to present himself to an Immigration Officer at his place of arrival, to wit, the Belize Northern Border on July 7, and that he remained in Belize in contravention of the Immigration Act and so he was deemed a prohibited immigrant.

But when he made attempts to leave the country on July 10 through the PGIA en route to Cuba and had been placed on the flight, he was red flagged and taken off.

We understand he allegedly paid two officers to allow him to leave, but they later turned around and charged him criminally for an Immigration offense despite being paid to allow him to go.

Elrington says it is unnecessary and highly improper to continue to hold someone who the country does not want here solely for the purpose of helping to convict others.

The habeas corpus application must be made at the High Court, who will treat the matter with some urgency, he says.

 

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