The pain and anguish of deportation

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

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"Regardless of colour, creed, circumstances or station in life, we wish to assure all Jamaicans that Jamaica will be that ‘abiding city’ for its sons and daughters wherever they may be or whatever they would have done, because Jamaica is still the land that we love." – Ministry of National Security

We would have liked to embrace wholeheartedly this noble sentiment above from the Ministry of National Security in respect of the 42 Jamaicans who were deported from the United Kingdom last week Wednesday. But we cannot do so without reservation.

Too many Jamaicans are being deported for us to take the idealistic position that whatever they do in the countries from which they are being sent home they are welcome back here with open arms.

A serious message has to be sent that, while we may not be able to refuse anyone born in Jamaica, we do not take kindly to those who are being forcibly returned because of criminal activities.

Based on statistics from the security ministry, last Friday we reported that between 2012 and 2016, some 9,425 Jamaicans had been deported from about 17 countries, or an average of 2,336 per year. The United States led the way with 4,153, the UK followed with 1,345 and Canada was third, having sent back 931 Jamaicans.

The other countries accounting for the remainder of 2,954 deportees were: The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Curacao, Mexico, Germany, Cayman, Colombia, Grenada, Panama, St Lucia, Switzerland, St Maarten, Aruba, and Antigua and Barbuda.

The reasons given for their deportation included overstayi

ng their visas, illegal entry/re-entry into the deporting countries, drug-related offences, assault and wounding, theft, murder, firearm offences, sexual offences, among other crimes.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that some of these deportees continue their life of crime after returning to Jamaica, sometimes proving to be too crafty or technologically savvy for our under-equipped and overstretched police.

These people must not be made to feel that whatever they do Jamaica is here just waiting to cuddle them and love them up.

Our message to them must be that, when they migrate, they must live as good and productive citizens of their adopted countries, which is no less than we would expect if they had stayed here.

Naturally, the issue of deportation carries with it much pain and anguish for some Jamaicans and their families who might have lived productive lives in their new country but failed to regularise their residency status even after many years.

Some of these include people who might have been taken by their migrating parents while they were yet children and had become adults in their new home. The case all too frequently is that they would have lost contact with any remaining relatives in Jamaica and are deported into a frightening uncertainty.

The message for these people must be that they do all they can to gain legal status, preferably citizenship, in these countries, and to keep in touch with family, friends and communities.

We support the security ministry’s expression of thanks to "the families and friends of the returned Jamaicans, as well as non-governmental organisations which have rallied in support of these persons as they seek to reintegrate into the Jamaican society". The more services and support offered to the returned Jamaicans the greater the positive outcomes that may be possible.

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