Turks and Caicos, Providenciales, June 13th 2017:
One man is taking legal action on the TCI Immigration Department, all the way from India, for improper treatment.
Mehul Chandrakant Solanki is back home in India now, after spending two unnecessary months enduring what he describes as an horrific ordeal and unfair treatment meted out at the South Dock Road Detention Centre in the Turks and Caicos.
Describing it as a clear abuse of power by the Immigration Officers, Mr. Solanki is vowing to ensure those still being held at the detention centre are not treated in the same way as he has taken up this case and says he has all the proof and documents to support his claims, including his contact with the High Commission of India to Jamaica, located in Kingston.
Mr. Solanki says he is well known in Provo and has worked there for almost three years. His story begins when he says he went to report his lost passport to the Police in Providenciales in early March, only to instead be handed over the Immigration Department and charged with overstaying. Solanki says the Immigration officers took his mobile phone, a Samsung Note; his wallet containing $2,140 and his bag containing his clothes. The items were said to be put in a sealed bag with a number on it.
Mr. Solanki requested that he contact someone to notify them of what had happened, but was denied any chance of doing so. He then asked whether they had contacted the High Commission’s office on his behalf, and was told that this was already done by the Immigration Office.
Some ten to 15 days passed without word from the Indian High Commission, and Mr. Solanki again asked for the chance to make a phone call. By March 27th, he got the opportunity to make a phone call, contacting the Commission, where it was said to him that no request was ever made, nor were they notified of his case. The Commission then assured him that a new emergency passport would be sent to him in seven days, arriving by early April.
Still, there was no word to Solanki on whether the new, temporary passport was received and questions about the document were ignored by TCI authorities.
Another call was granted to Mr. Solanki, who had by this time been in the center for nearly a month. His cell phone was required to make that phone call, but when a female officer, searched his belonging, there was no cell phone, and all of the money from his wallet was gone.
During this time at the South Dock Road Detention Center, Mr. Solanki says the fisherman on remand for alleged poaching were being held.
Authorities have confirmed that the men were exposed to scabies at the holding centre and had to receive treatment and bedding was burned. The fishermen also needed clothing and it was at that time that Solanki noticed that the clothing being given to the Dominicans on remand, were in fact his.
Solanki says at no time did he give permission for his clothing to be given away.
To add insult to injury, Solanki discovered that his temporary passport had long been sent and received by the Immigration Department but that he was held despite and not notified about its arrival, which he explained to Magnetic Media, was April 19. Outrageously, Solanki was told that he would have to make the journey back home without his money, without his belongings and he was still being made to pay for his return trip to India.
Mehul Chandrakant Solanki was held for two months at the detention center for overstaying. Solanki left the Turks and Caicos on May 15, 2017 in a route which was considerably more expensive and tedious, taking him through the Dominican Republic, Curacao, Amsterdam, Mumbai and then home at a cost of $2,400 when another, shorter route through Jamaica would have been $900.
In his disturbing account, Mehul Solanki recalls the ‘mistreatment of a Polish woman and two other Chinese people’ captive at the detention centre and believes their voices also need to be heard, as their personal items were also stolen.
Mr. Solanki explained that his case is not only to get justice, but to make a statement to the TCI Immigration Department that they cannot misuse nor abuse their powers over immigrants even if they have overstayed their time.
Magnetic Media contacted the TCI Human Rights Commission, HRC, which shared that when they met Mr. Solanki at the Detention Centre in a visit on March 28th, he was happy and that he did not report being ill-treated or in need of anything. However, Solanki explained that the visit of the HRC came a day after he had gotten assurances of a replacement passport from the High Commission and at that time, he felt that everything was fine. The HRC said a contact number was left with Mr. Solanki in the event that things changed at the centre.
Weeks later, he was still at the South Dock Road detention centre and told our news room that he would have communicated the problems including that his cell phone/tablet had since been stolen. However, the HRC was not allowed on premises due to the scabies health risk and with his cell phone/tablet stolen he no longer had their phone number.
No complaint about the events at the detention centre was lodged at Human Rights office either explained to the organization, as Solanki said that he was given very little time to leave the TCI and that a formal complaint will come through his attorney.
News reports on cases of ‘overstaying in the Turks and Caicos’ are commonly carried in the media and a review of recent reports revealed a clear inconsistency in how foreigners are treated when they are in breach of that law.
Mehul Solanki explained that he was never charged in a court of law, was threatened with being jailed, that he was scoffed and laughed at when he asked for an opportunity to file a complaint and at one point had to scream at the top of his lungs just to get medical treatment when ‘bad food’ made him sick.
Mr.Solanki’s attorney will be present in the TCI in the coming days to attend to this matter.
Magnetic Media has reached out to the Minister of Border Control and Deputy Premier about the case.