Mon | May 25, 2020

Heartbroken Jamaican ship workers denied landing in Kingston

Published:Monday | April 6, 2020 | 12:00 AM
It was the first time in 21 days that a group of 45 Jamaican ship workers aboard the Marella Discovery 2 were seeing land, and it was capital city Kingston. But with restrictions on incoming passenger traffic because of the coronavirus, getting off the vessel was next to impossible.

Damion Mitchell, Integration Editor

They came so close, some reportedly became emotional.

It was the first time in 21 days that a group of 45 Jamaican ship workers aboard the Marella Discovery 2 were seeing land, and it was capital city Kingston.

But with restrictions on incoming passenger traffic because of the coronavirus, getting off the vessel was next to impossible, and it appears their plea for exemption could not be answered.

Now they are at sea heading to Portugal and are reaching out to the government to help them when they get there.

Forty-year-old Manchester native Alicia Daley is among the heartbroken Jamaicans on the ship.

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“We’re feeling very sad, very disappointed,” she said.

Daley spoke to The Gleaner via WhatsApp on Saturday, as the ship pulled out of the Dominican Republic en route to Portugal.

That was a day after the vessel anchored in Kingston, refuelled, waited for hours for docking clearance, then left, reportedly after no response came from the Government.

In the Dominican Republic, as dozens of workers disembarked, the pain became pregnant for the Jamaicans.

“Reality is starting to kick in because we are on now our way to Europe,” Daley told The Gleaner.

She said the captain was willing to return to Jamaica with her countrymen once there was clearance before the ship hit the Atlantic, but they never got the call from local authorities that they prayed for.

When the Jamaicans reach Portugal in another week, they will be among hundreds who will have to disembark there.

“Basically, we will be left out in the cold,” said Daley, adding that at least two other countries have indicated that they will send charter flights for their natives who work on the ship.

Her only consolation at this point is that for the weeks the ship has been at sea, there has been no case of the coronavirus on board.

Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith could not be immediately reached for a comment on whether the Government would be seeking to help the Jamaicans in any way.

Meanwhile, it has been a nerve-racking few days for Alecia Scott, another Jamaican on the Marella Discovery 2, now heading to Lisbon.

“The pandemic is mostly over on that side and nobody really wants to go there,” she said, noting that the Jamaicans were willing to go in quarantine if they had been allowed to disembark in Kingston.

Europe, with hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 cases, has been the new epicentre of the virus, although over the weekend, there were reports of a slowing in the number of new infections and fatalities.

That, however, is cold comfort for Scott.

“It’s like they refused us,” she said, referring to the Jamaican Government. “I cried for days.”

Kimono Hanson was similarly worried.

She wants the Jamaican Government to help make arrangements for the ship workers to get back home or to the nearest port if a return is not possible at this time.

damion.mitchell@gleanerjm.com

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