Wednesday, February 17, was a special day for a Saba family with three minor children who were finally reunited after they won their appeal case filed against the Immigration Department’s denial of a residence permit for the father, Akeem Isiah Winston, their attorney Remco Stomp said.
The father was raised in Saba, but holds a Dominica passport, and had been legally married to his Saba wife for many years. He was informed by Immigration officials in 2011 that he was not allowed to stay in Saba and had to leave the island, Stomp explained.
Since then, he kept on trying to stay with his wife and children in their ancestral home in Saba. However, each time he wanted to file for residency he was sent away by local authorities with the message that he did not qualify and had to leave the island, sometimes separating him from his family for more than a year, Stomp said.
“On several occasions he made it back to Saba, but was constantly harassed by police, who took his passport on at least five separate occasions over the years, telling him that he would only get it back if he left, forcing him off the island and separating him from his family time and time again,” Stomp said.
As the situation for the mother and the children became unbearable, Winston made his way back to Saba and moved in with his loved ones, determined not to leave anymore. He once more filed for residency and this time around the application finally was accepted, but turned down nevertheless because he had not remained off-island as is required by law, the Immigration Department’s decision stated.
The Winston family contacted attorney Stomp in St. Maarten, who filed an immediate appeal against the decision with the Immigration Appeal Committee, which is based in Bonaire.
In the appeal Stomp focused on technicalities within the law and pointed out that, according to the law, individuals who have had legal residence for a prolonged period of time are to be exempted from the off-island requirement.
Stomp asked Winston to start looking for his old residence papers. “This was easier said than done, as finding old documents after the various hurricanes over time poses a challenge,” whereas “government systems that change over time do not always hold all necessary, complete or correct information, experience teaches,” Stomp explained.
However, Winston did manage to find some expired residence permits, as he had been raised in Saba as a child. Stomp submitted these as evidence during the appeal.
In addition, Stomp pointed out to the court that the family complied with all other requirements for residency, as well as the right to a family life which is “explicitly guaranteed” under the European Human Rights Treaty EVRM.
The Immigration Appeal Committee accepted the appeal in the name of the state secretary of justice and security, finally granting Winston’s “hard-fought right to stay with his loved ones and reuniting this Saba family,” his lawyer said.
The Daily Herald.