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Homecoming for Jamaicans in Haiti

Published:Saturday | January 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM

ANOTHER 35 Jamaicans stranded in Haiti are to return home today by special airlift.

Information Minister, Daryl Vaz, said yesterday that the Jamaicans would return on a special Air Jamaica flight that was scheduled to depart Jamaica this morning with close to 150 Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldiers and a group of doctors.

Vaz disclosed that two immigration officers would also travel to Haiti to process Jamaicans who wanted to return to the island. The Jamaicans in Haiti were advised to gather at the airport in Port-au-Prince.

The minister said JDF soldiers already on the ground had been instructed to provide security for these individuals.

no documents required

The information minister repeated that no travel documents were required for Jamaicans returning to the island. However, he said persons would have to show some ties to Jamaica.

Some 32 Jamaicans stranded in Haiti were also flown back to the island yesterday aboard another specially organised Air Jamaica flight. The body of one of two Digicel employees killed in Haiti was also on the flight.

Noted medical doctor, Jephthah Ford, who was on the flight, gave a first-hand account of what he saw and warned that Jamaica should start making plans to "stop them (Haitians) from coming to our shores".

Warning that the outbreak of several air-borne disease would be next in Haiti, Dr Ford said, "We as a people have to realise that we are going to be overrun, and it's going to be total madness."

Another Jamaican on the flight, Craig Mahabeer, told The Gleaner that he had just finished his shift and was on his way to his hotel when the quake hit. The hotel, he added, was totally destroyed and almost 90 per cent of its occupants were killed.

"If the earthquake had hit about 30 minutes later, I would have been there," Mahabeer said.