Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Editorial | Deportations shouldn’t be political blame game

Published:Monday | September 12, 2016 | 9:00 AM

We sensed the undertones of political blame game over last week's deportation from Britain of nearly 50 Jamaicans. Hopefully, it doesn't take hold so that the Government can pursue, in a calm, non-partisan environment, the interests of those of its citizens who have legitimate concerns.

Such deportations, as National Security Minister Robert Montague observed, are not new. Britain and the United States have, since the 1990s, occasionally sent back to this country planeloads of people who hold Jamaican citizenship who but, are deemed to have breached immigration and other laws of those states.

There is even a 2007 memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Jamaica and the UK covering how these matters are handled. Peter Phillips, the minister at the time of development of that MOU, and one with the United States, apparently felt compelled - perhaps because of the perceived tone of Mr Montague's statement - to defend the document. It used to be the case, he said, that people were bundled back to Jamaica without any certainty of their citizenship or that they had not been afforded due process, which is precisely the claim of many of those who returned home last week.

Britain, like any other sovereign state, including this one, has the right to protect its borders but must do so within the context of the law - domestic and international - and with respect for the dignity and human rights of the people who they presume to have offended it.

 

STRONG MERIT

 

Among those Jamaicans who were sent home are apparently people who have lived in Britain for many years, perhaps having been there as young children and establishing strong family ties. While some of their cases may not be legally unassailable, they are likely to have strong merit on humanitarian grounds.

Jamaica has a constitutional obligation to accept its citizens, as well as a duty to respect the laws of other countries. But it also has a responsibility to protect and pursue the interests of its citizens.

If Britain has misbehaved with any of these deportations, the Theresa May administration must be told clearly and firmly. And the Jamaican Government, within the parameters and norms of what can be done, or can be expected of a state, should help the affected persons gain redress.

But this can't happen effectively if this matter becomes a political ping-pong, with either side seeking to blame the other of gaining partisan advantage from the misfortune, or otherwise, of the country's citizens.