BWIA pilots detained in US
held after names appear on 'no-fly list'
By Sandra Chouthi
Special to Indo
- The effects of 9/11 hit
close to the homes of two national Trinidadian BWIA pilots last week
with their detention in the United States by the Federal Bureau of
Investigations (FBI) on suspicion that they were terrorists. The
pilots were BWIA first officer Rawle Joseph and captain Hugh Anthony
Wight was detained
on December 23 in Miami and Joseph in New York on Christmas Day. The
two were on their way back to Trinidad when they were detained. Their
detention followed their names appearing on a no-fly list, which is
circulated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the
US Department of Homeland Security. Joseph's and Wight's detention
came amidst heightened alert in the US of a terrorist threat during
the Christmas holidays. Passengers whose names appear on the list,
which was created in 1990 and administered by the FBI but the Federal
Aviation Administration and TSA overtook its responsibility last
November, are required to go through additional security measures.
It was reported
that BWIA had a copy of the no-fly list, but could not prevent its two
pilots from being detained because it arrived too late. Clint
Williams, corporate communications manager, said on December 30 that
the airline received the revised list which included Joseph's and
Wight's names from the US, but only after they were already deployed
to their respective flights.
Joseph and Wight
were cleared and returned home. Joseph, who arrived at Piarco on
December 31, was received by Patrick Edwards, permanent secretary in
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Also at Joseph's
side was captain Roger Grell. Joseph, who said he told FBI agents he
always carries a bible in his flight bag, spoke very little. "I
don't want to be a star. I just want to go up Arima (home),"
said Joseph, a BWIA pilot since 1980.
Before his arrival
to Trinidad, Joseph told a Newsday reporter in New York that the
agents searched his bible "page by page."
apprehended by Customs and Immigration at JFK international airport in
full view of his crew and passengers.
everyone was "happy to have the boys back home," adding that
it was the best Christmas and New Year's gift for the families and the
was working expeditiously to get them back home. It was very
important," Edwards said.
Wight's name was
also removed from the list.
The captain, who
has been employed with the airline since 1973, returned to Trinidad on
December 29. Wight was interrogated for almost 12 hours by the FBI and
detention has led to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanding a full
apology from the US government.
On December 30, the
Ministry labelled the detention as "unwarranted, unjustified and
severely damaging not only to their image, but also to the national
airline of BWIA."
The Ministry is
also asking for financial compensation for the airline regarding costs
incurred and written apologies to both pilots, the government and the
The detention of
the BWIA pilots has led to the airline now preparing to put armed
guards on selected flights into the US. The move comes after the US
issued a directive on December 29. Williams said: "BWIA has
always complied with security directives from the Federal Aviation
call for air marshals on BWIA flights does not sit well with the
Trinidad and Tobago Airline Pilots Association (TALPA). Its president,
Rory Lewis, said: "I have my misgivings. It could be a good thing
if properly controlled. Right now we do not have any leeway to have
anybody with arms on board the aircraft, whoever they might be. So
there is still a lot of ground that has to be gone over."
Security clamp down puts
squeeze on immigrants
— Up to January 4, 2004, a
total of 48 people have been turned away from flights home to Canada,
according to an immigration department official.
inability of these person to re-enter Canada is due to new rules for
permanent residents to re-enter Canada. The new rules require all
permanent residents to produce the new Permanent Resident Card for
re-entry and up to close to the deadline only 850,000 of the 1.5
million permanent residents have been issued a card.
were still not sure how to deal with the issue on New Year’s Eve, as
some said they have not received clear instructions. An Air Canada
spokesperson noted that a permanent resident without a PR card would
not be allowed to board the aircraft.
immigration official denied that those stranded were not given help,
the official said that such person should visit the Canadian Consulate
and be issued with supplementary travel documents to allow them to
re-enter the country.
fallout from the September 11th terrorist attacks continue, the US has
adopted stringent new measures in an effort to keep unwanted persons
form their shores.
January 01, 2004 all visitors, students and workers excepting those
from Western Europe, Canada and a few other countries would have to
get in line to have their picture and fingerprints taken and matched
against wanted terrorists.
measures is aimed at keeping terrorists and illegal aliens out of the