Foreign minister cautions Jamaican travellers

Foreign minister cautions Jamaican travellers

Senior staff reporter

Sunday, March 22, 2020

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Foreign Affairs minister, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith is cautioning Jamaicans at home and in the Diaspora who coninue to travel internationally that they could find themselves unable to return to their places of origin as countries continue to close off borders and airspace in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.

“So when you travel you may not be able to get back from wherever you come, and this is very important, especially if you are not a national of that country,” she emphasied Friday evening during a Diaspora digital town hall meeting on COVID-19.

“To Jamaicans who have travelled and are in far-flung areas, now is not the time to go exploring. Countries are closing borders everywhere, so your route back to where you are based, or your route home may have closed already, and if not today it may close tomorrow,” she stressed.

Johnson Smith further advised Jamaicans in the Diaspora to register with the Jamaican consulate in the countries where they currently are.

“We are encouraging persons to register, on the website, to let us know where you are, in case you're somewhere where there is no support system... but I'm asking persons try not to travel and explore now because it's not just about Jamaica, countries all over are closing their borders and it makes travel very uncertain and very problematic,” she stated.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced on Friday that as of 11:59 pm yesterday, Jamaica's airspace and seaports would be closed to incoming passenger traffic.

Johnson Smith said the consular emergency e-mail address of her ministry, as well as the emergency e-mail addresses for all consulates will be posted on the ministry's website.

The foreign affairs minister pointed out that part of the challenge is that different countries have varying senses of urgency, and that this makes cooperation even more critical to stemming the spread of the virus.

“Even in certain countries depending on where you are travelling from it varies even there, so the sense of urgency that people come to Jamaica with is varying. So when we say 14 days quarantine you need to stay at home and separated from your family,” she emphasised.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton further stressed to the Diaspora that, “they are a part of us and the connection will remain strong. We, however, think it is their best interest as it is in ours, to stay put, and just manage this virus by keeping out of the public space. Travelling right now between a taxi, an airport, and a flight then going through customs and immigration, it just increases your risk significantly. It's better to stay home for now”.

Meanwhile, Jamaica's Ambassador to the United States Audrey Marks advised that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) has suspended some of the requirements and time frames for filing documents, and has put off appointments and court hearings.

“So for persons who are worried about their immigrations status, who may have applied, their status may therefore change, the USCIS has announced that persons will be protected,” Johnson Smith explained as she read the ambassador's message.

She added that FAQs on these issues will also be posted on the foreign ministry's website.

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