Migrants group wants better for Jamaican deportees

Sunday, April 09, 2017

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President of the National Organisation of Deported Migrants (NODM) Oswald Dawkins aims to dispel the “hype” surrounding deportees coming into Jamaica.

According to Dawkins, people, especially those in the private sector, need to be sensitised about “Involuntary Returned Migrants”, which, he said, is the correct term to describe deportees.

Dawkins said that the term should be used and not ‘deportees’ which has a stigma attached to it. He added that every last Thursday of the month people are returned to Jamaica from the United States, and it’s not a sudden event as dictated by the media. He continued that there is also a particular claim that deportees will aid in worsening the crime situation.

“It’s been hyped in terms of deportees are coming down to Jamaica and they’re responsible in the large part for the spike in crime. Then Professor Bernard Headley (The University of the West Indies), he did a study and the study actually showed otherwise. The research actually debunks a lot of that. It showed that persons are coming down a bit older, forties and so on. It also showed that they did not have any correlation of persons being charged and convicted of crimes since they came down,” Dawkins said.

He said that in response to the fear of deportees contributing to crimes, there should be a fear where crime and violence is concerned in Jamaica. However, he stated that concerning deportees being largely involved in crimes, evidence had proven otherwise.

Dawkins said that the majority of the people being deported are not for criminal convictions, but mostly immigration violations. He said secondly to that, people are removed due to involvement in drugs, but violent crimes are minimal. According to Dawkins, many individuals being returned are past the age of 40, which is not the typical age for violent criminal offenders.

His organisation, he said, works along with governmental agencies and the United National Development Programme (UNDP) by providing redocumentation, reintegration, transportation that involves picking up returnees from the airports and providing counselling for returned migrants.

Employment, he said, is a major issue that is facing deportees because many people would not consider hiring someone who has been returned. He said that the organisation has been working to dispel the scepticism centred on hiring a returned migrant, something which is mostly prominent in the private sector.

“One of the things we say to persons, try to pool your skill set. So if you have a number of barbers, a number of cosmetologists, we say to them pool your resources and see if you can start a small business, then you can approach lending agencies or within the group persons might have certain resources. You might have persons with the tools or persons with a little bit of funds or persons with a place. But don’t place all your emphasis on going into the traditional employment arena. You had persons who had jobs and when it was found out they were deported; through that route they got laid off,” Dawkins said.

He said that individuals sometimes might not disclose their deported status, which is required by some companies, but separately from that, the private sector needs to be sensitised.

“You have persons coming back with a lot of human resources. Keep in mind that these are persons who have lived in ‘First World’ countries and they do things in a variety of ways. So the thing is, we can try and utilise their resources,” Dawkins continued.

He said that Jamaica generally has an employment problem but there are people who have been here for years and have been unable to find employment and there are those who may not even be seeking employment, sometimes due to fear of being discriminated against.

Dawkins said that the organisation has a support services project, which is funded by the British High Commission, which has been assisting in getting projects off the ground. But he said there is a misconception that exists among returned migrants in regards to Government financing.

“Persons will say that the Government of Jamaica gets money for them and that is so not obvious. You have persons who are actually coming back and expecting that the Government has put aside money and so you have persons functioning with those kinds of expectations. It’s not helping the way persons have been actually thinking,” he said.

The media, he stated, needs to be more sensitive in portraying returnees because of the stigma attached to them. Some of these individuals, he added, might only be sent back due to overstaying in a country, but yet they are highlighted in the wrong way with their photos being featured in the media.


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