Complaint against the Immigration Department concerning a woman whom the Immigration Department attempted to prevent leaving the country - October 10, 1996 - Emalus Campus
On September 5, 1996, Mrs X attempted to leave Vanuatu on an overseas trip. There was no legal basis for stopping her from doing so. However, several employees of the Immigration Department, acting on the instructions of Mr Francois Batik, the Principal Immigration Officer attempted to stop her from boarding an international flight at Bauerfield Airport.
The previous day, on September 4, 1996, Mr X, knowing of his wife’s intention to leave the country met with Mr Batik, who he knew personally and made a written request that his wife be prohibited from leaving the airport. On the same day, as a result of domestic problems which she and her husband had been experiencing, Mrs X obtained a judicial restraining order which contained a term stating that Mr X was not to interfere with Mrs X’s trip out of the country.
Upon being told by employees of the Immigration Office that she would not be permitted to leave the country, Mrs X called her lawyer who attended the airport and produced the restraining order. This resulted in Mrs X being permitted to leave the country. Even without the restraining order, there was no legal basis for restricting the departure of Mrs. X from the country.
Mr. Batik was found to have acted contrary to law in giving orders to prevent a person from leaving the country when there was no legal basis for doing so. Such actions amounted to a breach of Mrs X’s Constitutional right to freedom of movement. The subordinate officers, acting on Mr Batik’s illegal instruction to prevent Mrs X from leaving the country also acted contrary to law.
· That Mr Batik be reprimanded by the Minister for Foreign Affairs for breaching the Constitution and Leadership Code.
· That the subordinate officers who acted on Mr Batik’s illegal order be reprimanded.
· That Mr Batik write a letter of apology to Mrs X.
· That a manual be prepared for the Immigration Department and employees be informed about laws that govern their work.
Written by Edward R. Hill
UNDP Governance and Accountability Project
© Ombudsman of Vanuatu
Published here by University of the South Pacific, School of Law Web Site - www.vanuatu.usp.ac.fj