Abandoned abroad - Jamaicans ill and on their own overseas look to Kingston for help
A number of Jamaicans are languishing in hospital beds overseas without visits or aid from relatives in those countries, prompting attempts by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade to locate family members in Jamaica who may be able to assist.
Among the latest is 69-year-old Keith Porter, who is now hospitalised in New York in critical condition. According to information provided to the Jamaica Consulate General in New York, Porter was born in Jamaica but left for New York four years ago to live with an uncle.
The elderly man now claims that he cannot recall the name or address of his uncle.
Porter's case has prompted the foreign affairs ministry to issue a press release with the aim of locating his relatives in Jamaica.
According to the ministry, Porter was born on May 4, 1948, to mother Ida Porter. He has said that he is the father of five children - Keith, Nicole, Shauna, and Peter - and cannot recall the name of his youngest child.
The foreign affairs ministry said that it has received several similar calls for assistance from Jamaicans living overseas and has dealt with six such cases since the start of this year.
Some of these Jamaicans are living in foreign lands illegally, while others are legal permanent residents who may have access to medical care but are left abandoned by relatives.
"In cases where they are not legal residents, the authorities will request that they be repatriated to Jamaica since they have no rights to public assistance in the countries where they have fallen ill," the ministry told our news team last week.
"In addition, the Government of Jamaica does not provide for taking care of medical expenses abroad for Jamaican citizens. Assistance with repatriation is given through our high commissions, embassies, and consulates for them to be in Jamaica with their families and loved ones," added the ministry.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade said that there is a strict and lengthy process to repatriate sick persons to the island. They will first have to secure a passport after verifying that they are indeed Jamaicans, and then their relatives locally are contacted and funds identified for airfare.
"If the relatives are not willing to take them in, suitable accommodation has to be found for them such as a nursing home or a home for the aged. This is subject to the availability of bed/space as there is usually a waiting list," said the foreign affairs ministry.