“For four years, I am at the IDC, they are not telling me anything at all,” Gassama said, according to the Trinidad Daily Express.
“I am tired, I am suffering, I am really fed up.”
Gassama added that he has not heard anything about his case from immigration officials and has not been allowed to contact family members. Slamming his detention, he claimed that the Trinidadian government has spent more public funds to keep him detained than it would have cost to send him back to Senegal.
Every week, local Pastor Cordelle Williams and members of his congregation visit the IDC to offer their support to detainees. Despite raising funds to purchase deodorant, shampoo and other toiletries for Gassama and other detainees, he lamented that the situation is “very difficult.”
Williams said that Trinidadian authorities must find a way to hasten the immigration review process because many people, especially young people, are suffering deep depression.
“They are very disheartened, up to this recent week they saying 'pastor we feel like we are dying,’” Williams told the Trinidad Daily Express.
Having left Senegal in search of better opportunities, Gassama traveled by plane to Venezuela, where he subsequently took a boat ride to Trinidad. Though aware that he had overstayed his visa, he claimed that he remained in Trinidad in order to continue working in construction and private security with the goal of saving enough money to return home.
Pastor Cordelle Williams of the Cocoyea Seventh Day Adventist Church and members of his congregation have been visiting the IDC on a weekly basis to lend support to the detainees.
Williams said the Seventh Day Adventist Church from Enterprise has been pioneering the mission and sought his help as he is able to speak Spanish and communicate with the Spanish-speaking detainees.
Williams said the church raised funds to buy toiletries such as shampoo and deodorant to give to the detainees. He said they also try to raise funds to help those to pay their fines.
Williams explained when some illegal persons are held, they are kept at the prisons and unless they pay a fine of some $10,000 to $11,000 then they are sent to the IDC where they await hearing of their case.
The pastor said there are many helpful officials at the IDC but the problems lie in the system and the processing.
“Right now it is very difficult. We have been going to the IDC and also to the Arouca prison at Golden Grove and lending support to the people,” he said.
He said there is need for the authorities to expedite the process as there are young people in the IDC who are in deep depression and are suffering.
“They are very disheartened, up to this recent week they saying ‘pastor we feel like we are dying’,” he said.
He said there are detainees from Venezuela who are in a dire situation because they have no means of raising funds, adding that their families are in a trying position in Venezuela.
“We have raised $5,000 to assist one person in paying her fine, we raised $7,000 to buy deodorant and other items for them,” he said.
“We go and visit every week, we sing, we pray with them, it is something spiritual because when you see folks in that situation without their families, especially from Spanish-speaking territories where the language is a barrier, it is very difficult for them,” he said.
“Some of them are very young, from 18 to their early 20s, it is important that their minds are intact because it can become a very depressing situation without having your family to embrace you,” he added.
Williams said he was aware of Gassama’s case and hopes that the authorities can intervene and bring relief to him and others.