Thu | Jan 28, 2021

Miami hotel workers long for home

Published:Tuesday | March 31, 2020 | 12:27 AMDanae Hyman/Staff Reporter

Some seasonal Jamaican hotel workers in Miami, Florida, who missed the March 24 deadline to return to Jamaica before borders closed are pleading for the Government to help them return home.

The workers said that they are at risk of eviction because their contracts have been terminated and they are running low on cash.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that ports would close to incoming passengers on March 21 at 11:59 p.m. but allowed exemptions to some categories of Jamaicans until March 24. The lockdown was effected to curb the threat of the novel coronavirus, which has killed one person and infected 35 others on the island.

Kanay Lawes, a housekeeping attendant, said that she and her co-workers were cajoled last Saturday into leaving for the airport, despite protestation that passenger flights had been barred by the Jamaican authorities.

“The Saturday morning, at 2:30, she came and knocked down the door and said we have to leave now, so we said again that no flight is leaving, and she started shouting and said if we don’t want to leave willingly she would call the police to get us out,” Lawes told The Gleaner.

“We cooperated, even though we knew that no flight wasn’t leaving, and when we reached the airport, they told her that no flight was not leaving and she was determined to get us out and she was begging and pleading for them to book us on the flight to Atlanta, and they told her no,” Lawes said.

The HR manager reportedly took them back to the apartment and urged them to call the Jamaican Consulate for an avenue home.

When The Gleaner called the HR manager’s cell number, the phone rang unanswered.

Had to throw away food

Although the workers have been given the opportunity to stay in the apartment temporarily, some are complaining that they had to throw away food and other belongings before they got to the airport, forcing them to repurchase their depleted stock.

“I just got US$92, because them draw the rent from my pay. We nuh have no money to buy anything. We have to just pool and buy what can serve us for now,” said Shani Scott, another housekeeping attendant.

The Jamaican Government recently stepped in to assist more than 100 Jamaican workers who turned up at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport between March 24 and 25 to catch flights home because of cancellations.

Twenty-eight-year-old Shanna Geddes, another Jamaican who is stranded at the Miami apartment, said that she hopes to return home to her 18-month-old toddler.