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British-funded reintegration programme for deportees to end next year

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY Senior staff reporter dunkleya@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, February 04, 2013    

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FIRST secretary for migration at the British High Commission Steve Burns says he is fearful that the High Commission's gains in getting deportees settled when they return to the island could be eroded once its Rehabilitation and Reintegration Programme ends next year.

But, he said, a lot of support will be pumped into the initiative this year to guard against any potential demise.

"I fear that, but our aim for the next year is to put as much effort as we can into making sure that any remaining money goes into sustainable work so we are not going to put money into something we don't feel will not last," the first secretary told the Jamaica Observer after the launch of a follow-up DVD entitled Coming Home to Jamaica last week.

The DVD is a companion to the Coming Home to Jamaica handbook written in 2010 and revised in 2012. It was produced by the commission and contains information to connect deportees to aid agencies, as well as showcases success stories of persons who have survived the ordeal.

Speaking at the launch, Burns said it was hoped that the production would "drum up some effort to make this kind of initiative sustainable".

"You would pretty much agree that this (helping deportees resettle) is necessary work. I would hope that when our programme comes to an end in March next year there will be people, willing persons who have ideas on how to self-finance, how to make it a continuing area of work. We would hate to think that this thing just falls flat on its face when we stop supporting it," he said.

He also expressed hope that the American government fill the gap when funding from the British government dries up. Burns said, too, that he was hopeful that entities which had been on the scene before the High Commission's programme began would continue their work in that area.

"There are organisations and when I have left Jamaica at the end of my contract those will carry on whether we fund them or not. Places like Open Arms and Open Heart were in existence before we helped them. What we did was shape them up, support them and gave them some much needed support in cash. I am absolutely convinced that when I have left and gone they will still be doing good work here. I am hopeful, I am optimistic," he told the Observer.

In the meantime Commissioner of Corrections, Lieutenant Colonel Sean Prendergast speaking with the newspaper after the launch said the British government was to be commended for its efforts in this regard.

"The British High Commission has pumped a lot of funds into this reintegration programme. [It is] not only what you saw on the film, but also on the rehabilitation programme within the various correctional institutions. What you saw on the film helps to guide the deportees into some meaningful work that they can fend for themselves and it prevents them from having the excuse to get back into a life of crime and finding themselves in my facilities," Prendergast noted.

"The programmes help in reducing the recidivism rate in our facilities and one of the critical components of the programme has been to ensure sustainability. Many of the things that have been provided within our institution in terms of workshops that have been built, equipment that have been provided it is for us to actually care these so that they last," he said in expressing hope that the efforts would not fizzle after 2014.

Approximately £4 million would have been spent under the Commission's Rehabilitation and Integration Programme when it comes to an end next year. The effort which began in 2008, is a collage of projects aimed at assisting all persons sent back to the island.

Burns on Monday said "Jamaica is the Manchester United (noted English Professional Football Club) of the Caribbean in terms of removals from Britain"; "Jamaica is at the top of the list", he said.

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