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“Raul Garcia is a free man, and no longer stateless”
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“Raul Garcia is a free man, and no longer stateless”

Ariela St Pierre-Collins 2The stateless man Raul Garcia, who has been imprisoned for over 20 years, is a free man today, writes Ariela St Pierre-Collins, a 15-year old Commonwealth Correspondent from the Barbados. Raul has moved to rural Barbados, where he will be gradually integrated into society.

Just over 20 years ago, Raul Garcia entered Barbados using a counterfeit passport, attempting to smuggle illegal drugs into the country.

He was caught, convicted, and served his 20-year sentence in Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds. Upon his release, what should have been an otherwise ordinary transition into society turned into a highly-contested legal battle that lasted for several years over his right to enjoy the entitlement of every person on this planet – to belong somewhere and to be a citizen of a country.

The complexity of his case began upon release for his crime in Barbados when his native country, Cuba, decided to do something highly irregular, highly immoral and highly illegal:  the country denied him the right to return to the country of his birth.

Cuba refused to take him back, even though he was born there. Raul held U.S. residency for some time, but the U.S.A. refused also to take him in because of his felony conviction. Barbados didn’t want him, as not only had he committed one of the most loathsome crimes, drug smuggling, but he had entered into the country under an assumed identity. Barbados wanted Raul gone, and gone fast.

On his way back to Cuba, about to board a plane, the Cuban government rejected him, and he was detained in the Grantley Adams International Airport by the Barbados Immigration Department for nine months. He was transferred back to Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds where he was kept under maximum security and denied most of the rights of a normal prisoner, except that he was allowed to paint. His painting won Gold Medals in the NIFCA arts national talent showcase.

While in prison Raul Garcia had made friends ‘on the outside’. He is an accomplished painter and artist, having won distinctions for his paintings at national art exhibitions. Perhaps he felt contrite for his crimes; perhaps he wanted to start over afresh in a new country. What we do know is that Raul secured the services of one of the finest legal minds in Barbados, David Commissiong, who likes to be the champion of the underdog.

David helped bring to light some of the severe injustices suffered by Raul Garcia. These include being treated and considered as a maximum security prisoner, while also living in the same conditions as one who was charged with a life sentence. He was unrecognized by any state, had the status of ‘Immigration Detainee’, and was incapable of receiving medical attention or treatment for a known heart condition. He was being imprisoned indefinitely, and certainly illegally.

After almost 20 years – including a 15 year sentence and five additional years of imprisonment – Garcia was finally declared as free a man as any other on April 26th, 2013. He was moved in with a family in rural Barbados, to slowly begin integrating himself with society one step at a time.

photo credit: Dean Terry via photopin cc

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About me:

I am a Barbadian-Canadian and the founder of ‘Youth For Epic Change’, a charity aimed at raising funds for causes both locally and globally and inspiring teens in Barbados to be the catalyst for positive change. View my personal blog at www.unleashthepowerofone.tumblr.com.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/ …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

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