NASSAU, Bahamas:“Mi fraid! Mi fraid! God know mi fraid!” These are the cries of a Jamaican woman who alleges that she was abducted and raped by a senior immigration officer in The Bahamas earlier this week.
After the traumatic series of events unfolded, the victim said her attacker “had the nerve” to supply his phone number, suggest they could date, and ask for a kiss before leaving her.
The incident unfolded even as The Bahamas is under intense international scrutiny for its recently amended immigration policy, which came into effect on November 1.
Human rights critics have blasted successive governments over their failure to seriously address repeated claims of corruption and human-rights abuse at the Department of Immigration.
The Jamaican woman, who is from Ocho Rios, St Ann, said the ordeal began early on the morning of Saturday, December 13, when police arrested 11 women on suspicion of prostitution during a raid at a local bar.
Police reported the raid in their weekend crime report.
Off all the women picked up, the alleged victim, who worked as a bartender, was the only employee.
The low-key bar sits on the bottom floor of a rundown two-storey plaza in a part of town under police radar.
The woman says the minimum-wage salary she earns at the bar goes towards feeding her three young children.
According to the bar owner, at least 30 police officers, many armed with semi-automatic weapons, blocked off both sides of the main road in front of his business place early Saturday morning.
Their presence caused the 50 or so patrons in the club to “make a beeline for the door”.
“The police searched the men and let them go. They told the women – the Jamaican women – to get on the bus,” said the owner.
The alleged rape victim was one of them.
She said despite producing a copy of her spousal permit to prove her legal status, she was taken onto the bus and carted off to a downtown police station.
“Everyone was afraid. I thought I was safe since I have my papers. When we went in the bus, I said, ‘I have residency papers. I have a spousal permit’. The man said, ‘Go in the bus’,” she said, referring to a cop.
The Jamaican said she and the other detainees were first carried to the Central Police Station, where she encountered a “disrespectful” female police officer who remarked to another: “You should put them in a barrel and sink them.”
She said another “very nice” male officer was empathetic, consoling the women, saying, “everybody is different”. He had been to Jamaica before and liked the country.
“Mi neva sleep. Mi did a watch wha a gwaan,” said the victim of her time at the Central Police Station.
The Jamaican Head of Mission, Consul Patrick Hanlan, interceded on her behalf later on Saturday, before the woman, along with the other detainees, were transferred to the Carmichael Road Detention Center.
“I slept on the floor [at the Carmichael Road Detention Center]. They had all of the women and children in a big room with everyone lying down on the ground. I was walking over people saying sorry, sorry, excuse, sorry,” the Jamaican recalled.
“There were two pregnant women in there. I slept next to one. I saw plenty children. They were running around: eight months, 1, 2, 3, 4 years old go up. You name it. Plenty Haitians. They have the Haitians just spread out. The bathroom looked like they never cleaned it since they put it in there. It was very dirty,” she said.
The Jamaican woman alleges that on Monday she was released into the custody of a senior immigration officer. She said the officer signed her out of the Detention Centre, telling her that he was taking her to the Immigration Department.
However, she said he took her to his private home instead and repeatedly forced her to have sex with him, before releasing her the next day.
“I told him, no, no. I want to go home to my children. I want to see my children. I want to go home now,” she said.
She said after she was released by the immigration officer on Tuesday afternoon, she was counselled to report the matter to the police.
She did so later that evening.
The immigration officer was taken into custody on Wednesday.
Police did not file the arrest in the daily crime report, which is circulated to local media.
Yesterday, the police would not confirm if the immigration officer has been released or charged but said the investigation is ongoing.
By Noelle Nicolls, Jamaican Gleaner Writer