Going rough in last 7 years among 15,000 deporteesSunday, December 05, 2021
BY ROMARDO LYONS
Over 15,000 Jamaicans were deported from all countries between 2011 to 2018.
A total of 15,373 deportations were recorded within the period, with 10,652 coming from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, according to data provided by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin).
The data also reflects an annual downward trend from 2,629 deportations in 2011, to 1,183 in 2018 – a 45 per cent decline.
Back in March, Jamaica's Ambassador to the United States Audrey Marks revealed that the United States Government had agreed to help fund the refurbishing of the Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre in Portmore, St Catherine, or a similar facility, which will be used for the rehabilitation and training of deportees.
“We have sought funding from the US Government because our position is that most persons coming back to Jamaica as involuntary returning migrants have spent most of their lives here in the US. And so, we have been asking for a contribution to the resettling of those persons in terms of capacity. So, the refurbishing of Fort Augusta or a similar place is what they have agreed to do,” Marks said on March 4 during her online programme Let's Connect with Ambassador Marks.
However, Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang told the Jamaica Observer that “there have been changes.” The minister said the facility has been used to provide three field hospitals amid the coronavirus pandemic, “one of which will go to the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) after the crisis with COVID.”
Chang added: “That wasn't decided as the appropriate venue because it is on the sea coast, so if you have a storm, you're in problem. It is land that is more appropriate for port development which the ports are looking at already. We'll have to look at alternative sites in terms of the returning immigrants.”
Tremayne Brown, 55, was deported from the United Kingdom in 2008. He told the Sunday Observer that he had a fairly good transition back into Jamaica.
“I didn't face any stigma or violation or anything like that. I never go through any problem. Because I born and grow in the community, everybody was allright. And even before I got deported, I used to travel back and look for my friends, I carry things for them and we eat and drink. I even used to visit my church same way,” he said.
“I think that is a good thought,” he added, speaking of the US-funded rehabilitation and training of deportees announced by Marks.
His son, Tremayne ''Trench Town hero'' Brown Jr, went to the UK in 1993 when he was six years old. He was deported in 2017. Months later, junior Brown rose to fame when he jumped in a gully that runs along Collie Smith Drive in Trench Town to rescue 11-year-old Renaldo Reynolds from raging flood water.
Brown later received the Badge of Honour for Gallantry at the National Honours and Awards ceremony in October 2017.
Elder Brown used this to stress that not all deported individuals return to Jamaica and wreak havoc.
But two other Jamaicans who were deported said they weren't as fortunate in terms of settling down without hassle. The men said the initiative by the US would've been greatly beneficial to them, had it been available during their deportations.
One of the men, who requested anonymity, told the Sunday Observer that he was deported from the United Kingdom in 2004.
“I didn't have anything like that. I didn't get anything!” he said of the US-funded facility that Ambassador Marks mentioned.
“I was in England for four years and it was difficult to settle down. I was visiting in 2000 and when I went there, I saw myself in heaven, so I decided not to come back where Satan is, which is in Jamaica. I would never want to come back to Jamaica. It is savage! The most segregated place I've been in the world is Jamaica… people prejudice dem one another,” the man said.
Forty-six deportees arrived in Jamaica on April 21, 2020, after the security ministry put measures in place to facilitate their “safe return.”
A month later, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that an additional 40 were among 220 Jamaicans scheduled to arrive in the island from the United States by air.
The man said being deported with nothing and having to start over from “scratch” was much worse than people imagine.
“For me, it was like I was locked up in jail. When I got back to Jamaica, it was hard for me to settle. Although I was born here, it was really hard for me to get back and see where I'm coming from. It was a real hard thing for me. And then my mind changed instantly when I see the lifestyle in Jamaica. I wish the plane crash in the Pacific Ocean and kill me more than me come back to Jamaica.”
He likened the experience to that of being trapped in quicksand.
“There's no one to rescue you, so you must go under. When I was in the UK I was working. I loved to go to work…I loved to get up in the morning and know that I have to go to work because I know that I have to pay my rent. And the life of living was much better than being in Jamaica. My living standard was so upgraded. That's why so many Jamaicans go away to foreign countries and don't want to come back in Jamaica,” he said.
The second deportee told the Sunday Observer that he hopes the facility allows for a smoother transition for IRMs. He was living in the US for 13 years before he was deported.
“Jamaicans view deportees negatively. They make you feel like you go foreign go kill people and do all manner of evil. Is like if you are deported, you are an outcast in Jamaica. And that is across all sectors of the society… it's even the same when you try to get a work and rebuild yourself,” he said.
“But it shouldn't be like that,” he continued. “People leave Jamaica to better themselves. Yes, it could be done the right way, but becoming a citizen and getting the right documents was way harder back in the days. And when hard life lick yuh, yuh run to where it is easier. That nuh mean seh you a criminal.”
The St Catherine-based resident said he was never able to get an “official” job after being deported.
“I am just hustling… I been doing that since 2001. I am much better off now, but it took me a long time to get back on my feet. Trust me, it's not easy… the stigma alone make you want to give up. You really have to be strong.”
He said that some may view the funding from the US as a ploy to deport more Jamaicans.
“It's their country. Things are easier now. I wouldn't make the same mistake I did back then now. Information is everywhere, so if you want to go to the people dem country, just do it the right way.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued broad new directives to immigration officers two months ago, saying the fact that someone is an undocumented immigrant “should not alone be the basis” of a decision to detain and deport him from the United States.