Jamaica: Haitian repatriation raises concerns over treatment and rights

November 30, 2023 -The nine Haitian nationals who were intercepted in Portland, Jamaica on Monday were sent home shortly after their apprehension.

Their journey back to Haiti commenced on Wednesday, with a departure from Port Antonio aboard a Jamaican Defence Force (JDF) coast guard vessel.

This abrupt repatriation has raised eyebrows and ignited a debate over the treatment of Haitian migrants in comparison to other immigrant groups.

Quick repatriation rouses questions

Human rights attorney Malene Alleyne, representing Freedom Imaginaries, is at the forefront of questioning the expeditious repatriation of Haitian individuals.

She raises concerns about the unequal treatment of Haitian migrants, emphasizing the need for them to enjoy the same rights and opportunities as other immigrant communities.

unequal access to rights

Alleyne points out disparities in how various immigrant groups are received and protected in different countries.

She highlights the example of Guyana, where United Nations agencies and the government collaborate on a program granting Haitians entry and access to protection services.

In contrast, Haitians appear to be systematically excluded from similar protections in Jamaica. She also draws attention to the case of Ukrainian migrants, who benefit from an efficient procedure for determining their refugee status.

Calls for fair treatment

Ms. Alleyne’s impassioned plea for fairness in the treatment of Haitian migrants is accompanied by allegations of intimidation tactics employed by members of the security forces.

She recounts her own experience, claiming that heavily armed soldiers and police officers confronted her during her attempts to communicate with the Haitian nationals.

“I understand the security concerns that Jamaica has and there’s a way to deal with it. No one is asking Jamaica not to address those concerns, we’re just asking for due process, but I can’t understand why an attorney-at-law must be intimidated by heavily armed soldiers and heavily armed police officers. It is not right, it is not necessary,” she said.

Haitians illegally entered Jamaica

It was reported that a vessel carrying Haitian passengers landed along the Jamaican coast late Sunday night into the early hours of Monday.

The exact number of individuals on the vessel remains unknown.

Reports are that residents of the area first noticed the boat’s presence during the early hours of Monday and alerted local law enforcement.

Upon arrival at the scene, the police discovered items of clothing believed to belong to women and children.

Discovery leads to Hope Bay

The search eventually led the authorities to the Hope Bay area, where a vehicle was intercepted.

Among this group, one individual was identified as having resided in Jamaica for a significant period, specifically in St. James.

Following their discovery, the Haitians were taken into custody for processing.

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