British woman disregards immigration order to leave
by Bria King
A British national, who is seeking residency in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), has accused local immigration authorities of defaming and treating her unfairly as though she were a criminal on the run.
But Beverly Walker, the Chief Immigration Officer told SEARCHLIGHT this week that the British woman has “openly disregarded and refused to comply with instructions given by the Immigration Department”.
And as it stands at present, the US registered lawyer and public speaker is considered to be in this country illegally because she was not granted any further period of stay.
Juanita Headley is an author and anti-trafficking advocate, who first arrived in SVG in August 2020, where she informed immigration officials that she was on vacation and intended to stay for 21 days.
As a British citizen, she was granted six months on entry, following which she applied for and received at least three extensions of stay until her last application in May 2021 was denied.
Headley’s stay in the archipelagic state quickly became unpleasant when her photo appeared on the Passports and Immigration Department’s official Facebook page on June 4 with the caption; “Ms Juanita Headley is asked to come in to the Head Office of the Passports and Immigration Department in Kingstown. The matter is urgent”.
Under this post, several comments were published, seemingly by persons overseas, vouching for the lawyer’s character. However, those comments have since been removed.
“There are people here illegal in your country. I know of a student, an African student here illegally for six years. His picture is not up on the Internet, and the fact of the matter is, there is information being spread…” the upset author told SEARCHLIGHT this week.
While in St Vincent, Headley engaged in several speaking engagements relating to abuse and human trafficking, on mainland, St Vincent and several Grenadines islands, including Bequia and Canouan.
She has also been featured in the print and broadcast media within the nine-months period she has been in SVG.
The anti-trafficking advocate did not charge a fee to speak at these events, and she was hosted in the homes of a number of Vincentian nationals during her time here.
A chronology of events provided by Headley shows that she received one-month extensions from Immigration authorities on three separate occasions.
During this time, Headley unsuccessfully sought to obtain “missionary status” here.
“I was requested to provide a letter from Wesleyan Holiness Church stating that they had invited me for a zoom and to endorse me as a missionary. This letter needed to be addressed to the Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) and submitted on April 19th 2021,” read Headley’s 8-page document outlining a series of events that took place.
She told SEARCHLIGHT this letter was seemingly never submitted.
When the lawyer submitted her passport in an attempt to apply for a fourth extension of stay on May 17, 2021 at the Union Island Immigration office, she was denied.
On May 18, the British national indicated that she was informed by an official at the Immigration head office that she had until May 25 to leave the country, and when she inquired as to the reason for the decision, she was told that nine months was too long for a holiday.
A letter dated May 21 and titled “RE: APPLICATION TO RESIDE IN ST VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES – MS JUANITA HEADLEY” was sent to Vincentian lawyer, Meisha Cruickshank notifying her that the time given for Headley to depart SVG was extended by two days.
The letter, which was signed by the Chief Immigration Officer Beverly Walker, said that Cruickshank could act on behalf of the public speaker and submit an application for temporary residence when all the documents needed were obtained.
It also said that if the application was approved, Headley would be allowed to return to the country, but that she must leave on or before May 27.
All of Headley’s documents for residency were submitted and payment for the application made on May 26 – one day before she was required to leave.
“I couldn’t actually leave, and I had no intention of doing so because I had been told by a Caribbean lawyer, who doesn’t live and work here, that you have a right to remain until your application is completed…” Headley told SEARCHLIGHT via telephone.
When asked about her reasons for not leaving when instructed to do so, the lawyer said there were no available flights in the timeframe, the next available flight was US$4000, which she did not want to pay, and she was informed that she had the legal right to remain in SVG until the processing of her residency application was completed.
Residence and work permit applications are lodged at the Prime Minister’s Office, and anyone wishing to take up residence and employment in the state must first obtain permission to do so.
There is no indication in the Immigration (Restriction) Act of SVG, that Headley has the legal right to stay in-country until the processing of her residency application is completed.
Section 8 of the Act, which speaks to permits for prohibited immigrants to reside, states that a permit may be granted to a prohibited immigrant to enter and remain in SVG.
This is subject to “such conditions as to duration and place of residence, or any other matter or thing, similar to those before enumerated or not, as the Governor-General may think expedient”.
“We have a lockdown in the United Kingdom, so if you’re in the United Kingdom, you can’t leave. I’m allergic to the vaccine so I cannot take the vaccine, which restricts my movement particularly with what’s going on in the United Kingdom,” the anti-trafficking advocate said, adding that she knows of an identical situation in which an individual was granted residency by local immigration authorities.
She also said: “I don’t see what’s the problem with someone liking your country and wanting to stay. What’s the problem with that? I don’t have to wear masks. In Union, we don’t wear masks. In England, you have to wear masks. If you don’t scan, you can’t enter a restaurant. When I was in England, I could not enter a restaurant without scanning…why would I go back to a country where they don’t even take cash? Where you can’t even have a menu to feel, you have to have a phone with internet? Why would I go back to that?”
According to Headley, her troubles with immigration seemingly coincide with rumours she has been hearing about herself; some of which insinuate that she is not a lawyer and that she is afoul of the law in her home country.
Checks carried out by SEARCHLIGHT confirm that Headley is in fact registered in the US State of New York as a lawyer, with registration number 5268461.
A police certificate dated May 24, 2021 from the UK, which was provided by Headley, also indicates that there are no convictions, warnings, cautions, impending prosecutions or matters under investigation in the UK police databases, as it relates to Headley.
When contacted by SEARCHLIGHT this week, the Chief Immigration Officer said she did not wish to elaborate on certain matters relating to Headley, except to say that the lawyer was given advance notice by the Department to leave the country.
“It was not a deportation. She did not leave. She was then allowed additional time in which she should leave the country, but she still refused to do so. I personally spoke with Ms. Headley as well, and informed her of the need to leave the country. Ms. Headley’s response to me was ‘what happens if I do not leave?’,” Walker said via e-mail correspondence.
The Chief Immigration Officer said almost two weeks after the date given to Headley to leave, checks revealed that she had not done so.
She added that efforts to reach the public speaker via phone proved futile because “the once accessible number was going straight to voice message when dialled”.
“Contacts were made with individuals who had acted as sponsors for Ms. Headley when she applied for extensions or, who had in other ways been affiliated with her. However, the department was told that they have distanced themselves from Ms. Headley due to various reasons and do not know how to reach her. The department then resorted to using its Facebook page in an effort to have Ms. Headley make contact with the department, by which further discussions could have taken place regarding her departure,” Walker explained.
Walker said further that the Department was informed that the post was drawn to Headley’s attention, but she has still refused to visit the department.
She told SEARCHLIGHT that the Immigration Department has exercised much discretion in assisting the British national, and it will have to do what is deemed necessary in the circumstances.
“This is a very unfortunate situation indeed,” Walker said via e-mail on Wednesday in response to questions posed by SEARCHLIGHT on the matter.
“It must be noted that all actions that are taken are within the parameters of the law.”
A voice note sent to SEARCHLIGHT by Headley this week suggests that she was standing outside a friend’s residence on Monday, June 7 when two persons arrived and identified themselves as Senior Immigration Officer (SIO) Harry, and Assistant Chief Immigration Officer (ACIO) Harry.
The woman who identified herself as SIO Harry could be heard in the recording telling Headley “You have until Friday to leave. If you don’t, we’re going to arrest you and take you to court”.
The man identified as an ACIO added “and if you go in hiding, we will find you”.
When SEARCHLIGHT asked Headley of her intentions to leave the country, she responded; “I’m not going to go anywhere. Let them deport me, simple. I’m not going to go anywhere. I’ve been given a lot of wrong information when it comes to the law…I’m getting a lot of conflicting information so I don’t know anything…”
She added that there was absolutely no reason for the way she is being treated by local immigration authorities, and that if anything were to happen to her, she will tell her story via “every medium in the world”.