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Jamaica should be careful re refugees

Published:Monday | January 25, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

It is an unfortunate tragedy that the people of Haiti have had to suffer. However, an earthquake is one of the sins of nature. Our hearts go out to them as numerous organisations and people from all over are doing whatever they can in an effort to alleviate the suffering.

Nonetheless, I can imagine that the relief effort is a painful task to undertake. The United States, which is well advanced in a variety of ways, has shown its capability and strength by assuming a leading role in the rescue, relief, and therapeutic efforts. Other countries, which are capable, have offered assistance as well. With regard to the acceptance of the Haitian people, some of whom are desperate to leave that ravaged country, Jamaica, although a senior member of CARICOM, cannot accommodate a large influx of them. Therefore, other member states and associate member states should also play an active role. CARICOM has 15 member states and five associate members. Therefore, we need to hear from more in the form of showing their solidarity and alliance.

The Jamaica and Haiti connection has been on the news for a while. As an example, embattled former president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, was given temporary residence in Jamaica by former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. The drugs-for-guns trade still exists, and now there are many who will be seeking asylum in Jamaica. The prime minister of Jamaica has a right to act, but he and his advisers need to tread lightly and take a second look at the repercussion of accepting a large influx of people here.

Potential threats

Other member states who can reach out and help in the form of acceptance are too silent. For example, St Lucia is a country that speaks Creole, The Bahamas has a large Haitian population, associate member state Turks and Caicos Islands has a large Haitian population in Five Cays and Providenciales, and there are other states that can do more in the form of acceptance. The United States (a land of immigrants), which should be opening its doors to refugees, has publicly refused to accept them for any reason.

Why should Jamaica accept these people when there is a language barrier, the risk of the spread of diseases, among other potential threats? Jamaica needs to carefully rethink and recalculate the risks and other problems that are associated with such a move.

I am, etc: