More J'cans expected home from Haiti today

BY INGRID BROWN Senior staff reporter

Saturday, January 16, 2010    

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MORE Jamaicans are expected to arrive home from Haiti today on an Air Jamaica flight -- the second trip being made in two days to bring home those stranded in the country devastated by Tuesday's powerful earthquake, which killed thousands and crumbled the majority of the buildings in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital.

Yesterday, Information Minister Daryl Vaz told journalists at a press briefing at Jamaica House in Kingston, that the chartered flight is to leave the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston at 4:45 am for the one-hour journey.

Only five Jamaicans who were stranded in Haiti arrived on yesterday's flight along with 23 Digicel employees and four members of Jamaica's Civil Aviation Authority.

According to Vaz, more stranded Jamaicans had intended to make the trip home but 'immigration issues' prevented them from doing so. He promised that the issues would be addressed today.

"There were some immigration issues from the Haitian side," he explained.

Such plans, include sending immigration officers on this morning's flight to Haiti to process these persons, some of whom have no documentation at all.

"I have infront of me of almost 30 additional names which have come in to me personally or to various ministries or agencies which I have circulated to the chief of staff, immigration and Air Jamaica to accommodate their return," Vaz said.

The information minister explained that members of the Jamaica Defence Force, who have already arrived in Haiti, have also been asked to assist with the processing of some of the stranded Jamaicans so they can get on the tarmac to board the flight home.

"I have also sensitised the immigration department who will be sending on the plane immigration officers to go over there and do the processing in Haiti to be able to deal with any of the issues which may have arrive," Vaz told Journalists.

"The place is absolutely a disaster and therefore I wouldn't wish any Jamaican to be turned back for any form of procedural reason," Vaz said.

Vaz said he believes there are several other Jamaicans who have been unable to get in touch with the Government and as such, made an appeal for family and friends to try and reach them to inform them of the flight home.

He said the congestion at the airport in Haiti has resulted in one of yesterday's scheduled flights being pushed back to this morning.

As such Vaz said it may be necessary for some Jamaicans to stay overnight at the airport in order to get out.

In the meantime, Vaz said a request was made by the family of one of two Digicel employees killed in the quake, for the body of their loved one to be embalmed and flown to Jamaica. The two employees are nationals of Ireland and France.

In addition, he said that Prime Minister Bruce Golding had given the directive that no Haitian be turned back when they get to Jamaica.

"We have to put (arrangements) in place because it is almost inevitable based on what is happening," Vaz said.




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