A CAMEROON native who was released from the Carmichael Road Detention Centre over two months ago claimed she saw missing Cuban woman Adriana Caro at the Department of Immigration’s safe house in early April.
She claimed she was told by Mrs Caro to contact her relatives to inform them of her whereabouts.
Mrs Caro, 22, was said to have been on board a Cuban vessel that capsized in Bahamian waters in early March that was later intercepted by Cuban, Bahamian, Turks Island and US Coast Guard officials the same month.
Local immigration officials said some 15 to 20 people died in the incident, believing Mrs Caro to be one of the victims.
However, in a witness statement filed on June 9, Violet Werengie claimed she met Mrs Caro sometime in early April while being held at the safe house, describing her as a beautiful Cuban woman “of light complexion” with “prominent dimples”.
“She stood out to me because at the time she was the only female in the safe house that did not have a child or children,” said Ms Werengie in her affidavit filed in support of a habeas corpus application filed by attorneys representing Mrs Caro.
The attorneys also represented Ms Werengie in an unrelated immigration matter.
“I spoke to Adrianna a few times because she was able to understand English very well and even spoke a little English so we were able to communicate. Adrianna told me about the accident on a boat and that her husband was a United States resident. She said she has been asking to speak with her husband and the officers keep denying her calls to her husband and family in the USA.”
Ms Werengie said upon leaving the safe house on April 7, Mrs Caro asked her to contact her husband and later tried to give her his phone number on a piece of paper.
However, she claimed immigration officers intervened and “barred” the Cuban woman from handing out the information.
“The immigration officers move people around so frequently. I have no idea where she is now or if she has been deported, but I am absolutely certain that I left her in the safe house on the 7th of April 2021,” the affidavit says.
“While I was in custody of the Department of Immigration, I observed that they would hide some of the detainees and many of us complained about not being able to speak with our family or retain lawyers to assist us.”
In an affidavit filed earlier this month, Officer in Charge of the CRDC Peter Joseph claimed Mrs Caro was never at the facility, adding he believed she was one of several passengers who died aboard the ill-fated vessel.
Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson said he was informed of the same.
However, in a second affidavit, attorney Paul Whitfield said he believed Mrs Caro was being held “incommunicado” at the Detention Centre, despite immigration officials adamantly denying the matter.
Mr Whitfield also contended that the affidavit filed by Mr Joseph was “vague”, “incomplete” and “inaccurate”.
“… There is no factual basis in the Peter Joseph affidavit to permit Mr Joseph to speculate that the applicant was one of the persons who perished at sea during the alleged boating incident,” Mr Whitfield’s affidavit stated.
Mr Whitfield also pointed to the fact that Mr Joseph’s filing lacked pertinent information such as the number of people aboard the vessel, the number of passengers rescued, and the names and age of the victims treated at Princess Margaret hospital among other things.
The attorney then went on to refer to Mr Joseph’s response to his conversation with another immigration official, who told him in March that Mrs Caro was being held at the facility, but later backtracked on the statement.
Mr Joseph claimed Mrs Caro was mistakenly identified as another female detainee by the immigration officer, who he said was “distracted” at the time.
However, to this, Mr Whitfield said: “At no time whatsoever and in no manner whatsoever did Ms Johnson indicate to me that she had been ‘distracted’ by some other matter that she was dealing with at the material time, leading to her giving me erroneous information.
“She claimed that the other woman being taken to court that morning was a Peruvian, by a ‘similar name’ not a Venezuelan. Mr Joseph was not present during any of the conversations I had with Ms Johnson and is therefore unable to speak directly to the same,” the affidavit continued.
Last month, Justice Bernard Turner granted the attorneys representing Mrs Caro leave to issue a writ of habeas corpus against Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson, Immigration Director Clarence Russell and Mr Joseph, who are the respondents in the matter.
The hearing continued yesterday, but was adjourned after Justice Turner gave the attorneys representing the respondents additional time to file a return and affidavit for Mr Russell in relation to Mrs Caro’s case.
The matter is expected to continue on July 21 at 10 am.