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Deportees outnumber returning residents

Friday, January 19, 2018

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Deportees account for more than twice the number of Jamaicans who have returned to the country over the past 10 years, the latest migration profile study has revealed.

According to the report on Jamaica's migration profile for 2017/18, which was handed over to the Government by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) yesterday, the annual numbers of voluntary returnees have trended downwards since 2007, while forced returnees have increased, with 10,190 in the voluntary category, compared with 24,916 deportees.

“The figures were only kept since the 1990s really, and this is when this phenomenon became evident,” lead consultant on the study, Professor Elizabeth Thomas-Hope, explained.

She was speaking yesterday at a ceremony held by the PIOJ at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel to hand over the report to stakeholders who contributed data, including the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Ministry of National Security, the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency, the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, and the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Among the chief concerns highlighted is the migration of tertiary-educated, professionals and students, which has left significant gaps in areas such as the health sector, where there is now a shortfall of 68 per cent of nurses in psychiatry; 71 per cent of nurse anaesthetists; and 74 per cent of public health nurses.

Additionally, the study, which was done in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, outlined that although remittances climbed to $2.3 billion in 2016 and contributed 16.1 per cent to Jamaica's gross domestic product (GDP), it had not significantly contributed to poverty alleviation, as the poorest households received less remittances, although more frequently than other quintiles.

Professor Thomas-Hope cautioned against dependency on this inflow. “The countries in the world in which remittances contribute most to the GDP are the poorest countries in the world. They are not the countries with the highest remittances…these are countries where remittances have become what GDP really depends upon,” she said.

Jamaica is 11th in that World Bank global ranking.

“We do have to be extremely cautious with running with that figure ($2.3 billion) as an achievement. Important as it is in the short term, it does raise flags as to how dependent are we becoming on this,” she stated.

The report also stated that fewer Jamaicans have been migrating to traditional countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom over the past 10 years. And although most of those who leave still make the US their country of choice, those numbers declined from 24,538 in 2006 to 17,362 in 2015.

At the same time, immigrants increased by some 11,700 between 2012 and 2016 over the previous five years. This included returning nationals and non-Jamaicans, with China and India being the main source countries for the latter.

The migration profile also provides primary and secondary data on migrants' characteristics; diaspora engagements; remittance and investment inflows; social protection mechanisms in place for migrants; established governance frameworks existing and updated legislation governing immigration; and gaps which prevent the effective streamlining of migration into national development strategies.

This is the second study to have been published by the PIOJ since the first profile in 2012. The survey allows for the monitoring and evaluation of migration and development policy and related socio-economic assessment.

Director general of the PIOJ Dr Wayne Henry said Jamaica holds the distinction of being the first country in the English-speaking Caribbean to have published a migration profile in 2012, and subsequently developed a National Policy on International Migration and Development, and a complementary five-year implementation plan.

Alphea Saunders

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