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Stranded - US denied Jamaican nurse passage from Haiti

Published:Sunday | January 24, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Staff Reporter

Port-au-Prince, Haiti:

A Jamaican nurse practitioner was yesterday denied passage to the United States when she attempted to leave Haiti.

Melissa Marballie, who has been the holder of a US green card since 2005, was turned back by US immigration when she attempted to return to the States where she has lived since 2000.

She had been in Haiti since last Sunday, arriving with a group of medical volunteers in the aftermath of the disaster.

"I was trying to go back to the States with the group but the United States won't allow me. They say that they have so many American citizens to evacuate and they don't have space for me," Marballie told The Sunday Gleaner.

She said that Haitians with US green cards were also turned back.

Over 110,000 persons have been confirmed to have died as a result of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake.

The United States and Jamaica were among the nations to respond to the crisis there. The US has since taken control of Haiti's air and sea ports. Non-US citizens have been having difficulties accessing the facilities.

Forced out on the streets by US policy, Marballie found her way to the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) base where she was allowed to stay. She will journey from the base to Jamaica en route to the US. Although happy to use the opportunity to say hello to relatives in Jamaica, she is not amused.

"The way I feel about the United States' actions cannot be put into words," Marballie said.

She added: "They would have let me stay on the streets. I have always known that being a green-card holder means that you are a third-class citizen, but it is today that I found out!"

Meanwhile, the nurse practitioner said it was the scale of the disaster that forced her to come to the aid of Haitians.

"Haiti is right next door to Jamaica. It could have happened to anyone. It could have happened to us," Marballie said.

She told The Sunday Gleaner that the experience was something that she would never forget.

"I saw grief, I saw desperation, I saw despair, I saw death ... . It just won't leave my mind," Marballie said.

Efforts to speak with US authorities in Haiti proved futile.