'You don't belong here' - Jamaicans claim they are being targeted in TCI ... Foreign Affairs says it has not received the complaints
Jamaicans in yet another regional state are complaining about the treatment they are getting from authorities there, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade says those complaints are yet to be reported to it.
This time, the complaints have come from some Jamaicans living in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), who last week told our news team that they are being targeted by police and immigration officials despite living and working in the islands legally.
"We are living with a huge sense of insecurity as you never know when your work permit will be denied," said one Jamaican who asked not to be named.
"Immigration and police have been pulling people out of stores, offices and even stopping vehicles to check work permits and detaining people who do not have their permits with them," added the Jamaican.
"Even if permits or receipts are taken to the detention centre, it is not easy to get people released," charged another Jamaican living in the TCI.
He charged that contrived reports by persons who were born in the TCI (Belongers) could result in Jamaicans losing their work permits.
But late last week, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said it had not had any reports, and Allan Eden-Hutchinson, the honorary representative of the Jamaican Government to the TCI, also scoffed at the claims.
Responding to questions from The Sunday Gleaner, Eden-Hutchinson said the TCI Government, over the years, has had many complaints of delays in the processing of work permits for all nationalities, and the resulting inconveniences they may have caused to affected applicants.
He said the TCI government has taken tangible steps in recent times to remedy the situation by making numerous changes to the process, with the most recent being the introduction of the 2016 Status Bill.
"Except for a few isolated cases, I am not aware of any prevailing practice of Jamaicans losing their work permits merely on the basis of a Belonger making a complaint to Immigration.
"In the instances where this happens and there is evidence of abuse or wrongful termination, there is sufficient recourse and legal framework for a complaint to be made and dealt with via Labour Department, Labour Tribunal, Human Rights Commission, Integrity Commission, and to Office of the Jamaican Consul," said Eden-Hutchinson.
No one taken from store
He said he was not aware of any practice, especially on the main island of Providenciales, where persons were taken out of stores and their work permits checked.
"I contacted the proprietor of the largest remittance service operation in the Turks & Caicos Islands, who happens to be a Jamaican, and he confirmed that he is not aware of any such practice both in the past or currently.
"If this happens in other stores, I am not aware, and given the geographic layout of the island and the prevalent use of social media, I would become aware of it very quickly," said Eden-Hutchinson.
He noted that the government of the TCI and, in particular, the Immigration Department and the police, reserve the right, at all times, to implement measures which they deem necessary to protect it borders and security.
"I am usually aware of such exercises during and after operation and they do not target any particular nationality. It is also the law and practice for persons on work permit to be in possession of the actual work permit or a copy of the receipt of payment for the renewal of same.
"If he or she is unable to provide proof of either, they are deemed to be illegal and would be detained until legal status is determined. In those circumstances, if a Jamaican is held, my office should be notified," added Eden-Hutchinson.
In recent years, scores of Jamaicans have made the TCI their home, working mainly in the hospitality sector and the classrooms.