Overseas missions, consuls, protect Jamaicans' interest
DAYS after opposition spokesman on foreign affairs and foreign trade, Edmund Bartlett, said the Government should give a full account of the steps being taken to secure the best interest of Jamaican airline pilot, Paul Stephens, who has been imprisoned in Qatar for the past three years, a senior diplomat is moving to assure Jamaicans that their rights and welfare will be safeguarded while travelling or living overseas.
"Throughout the world, we have missions... in Africa, Asia, Japan, and China, in Europe, Germany, Brussels, and Geneva. We have honorary consuls in Spain, Italy, and many South American and Caribbean countries, so our representation worldwide is extensive," director of diaspora consular affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Lloyd Wilks, said.
Welfare of citizens
"Our duties go well beyond persons that are incarcerated. We visit detention centres. We interview Jamaicans, who are there, to determine how they are doing and what their welfare state is and how their cases are progressing and if they need us to contact their relatives," Wilks said.
The director said the majority of cases received by missions and consuls relate to immigration matters involving Jamaicans, who try to enter territories without the requisite documentation or with false documents.
Additionally, he said there are cases where persons misrepresent themselves at borders. For example, a person might inform an immigration officer that he or she will be working as a security guard, but does not have the necessary documents to cover that activity.
"We have persons who are travelling to countries with contraband. They are caught, they are detained and they face a trial," he added.
He said when persons are detained they are afforded protection regardless of the offence committed.
"So, if an individual is held having committed murder anywhere at all, we still afford them the protection. We still ensure that the person is entitled to and receives proper legal representation," he informs.
"What the government cannot do is go into court and represent them, but we can provide them with a list of lawyers, tell them that they have a right to get an attorney and try and make contact with their family members, so the family may provide resources to fight their case," he added.
He said people "ought to make themselves aware of the immigration rules that apply to the country they are travelling.
"What is legally allowed? What is illegal? What are the visa and other entry requirements? Do they need to have valid passports and how long the validity needs to be for," he said.
"When people travel, they automatically surrender themselves to the laws of the land where they are travelling to and so those laws will prevail and that judicial system will prevail. Similarly, they are also surrendering themselves to the protection of the state to which they are travelling," Wilks said.
"If, regrettably, Jamaicans fall afoul of those laws and might not have presented proper visas or breached the immigration regulations of a foreign country, it means that that country has the right to carry out the letter of its laws," he added.