JIS News

The Government is sticking to its commitment not to turn back Haitians landing on Jamaican shores, in the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake, but has emphasised that the country cannot afford to keep them here for extended periods.
Addressing a press conference today (March 25), regarding the arrival of Haitians on the island on March 23, Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for Information, Telecommunication and Special Projects, Hon. Daryl Vaz, said it would be too expensive to keep the Haitians here for long.
“As such, arrangements will be made to return them once we have been able to get in contact with the Haitian authorities and work out a smooth transitional return of the Haitians. It is very important that we send a message from now that Jamaica is very, very sympathetic, but based on our own situation here and our financial constraints that we are facing, bearing in mind that we did intervene shortly after the earthquake in Haiti and it has been at a cost to the Jamaican Government so far (we cannot afford to keep them indefinitely) ,” he explained.
Mr. Vaz informed that the cost to maintain the Haitians here adds up to approximately $9 million per week, when security, medical, transportation back to Haiti and other expenses are calculated. He noted that based on these expenses, while the Government is cognizant of the hardships in the French-speaking nation, it has to balance this with its responsibility towards the people of Jamaica.
He explained that money from the Haitian Relief Fund has been earmarked for housing earthquake victims and that $14 million has so far been contributed by private companies toward the efforts. However, he is appealing to other companies that collected money for the Haitian relief to forward these funds to the Government as soon as possible.
A total of 62 Haitians arrived in Jamaica on March 23, 35 at the Manchioneal Fishing Beach in Portland at 4:30 a.m. and another 27 at Winnifred’s Beach about
6:00 a.m. The groups included 45 men, 9 women and 8 children. They are being housed at the Port Antonio Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
Mr. Vaz reported that medical screening and treatment have been carried out by the Ministry of Health. He said three of them have been admitted to the Port Antonio Public Hospital for matters relating to dehydration and high fever.
The Minister also informed that the health officials carried out vector control activities to ensure that there is no chance of malaria spread associated with the Haitians’ arrival.
“Vector control teams have already sprayed the boats on which the Haitians arrived as well as the articles brought in with them. The Manchioneal area was fogged as well as the vicinity of the Fair Prospect Health Centre. Any possible breeding sites in Winnifred were checked and found to be sterile,” Mr. Vaz assured.
He further added that representatives from the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency have processed the Haitians and it is believed that about 16 of them are repeat visitors to Jamaica.
Mr. Vaz outlined that an eight-hour shift system has been worked out by the Ministry of National Security for the provision of security for the temporary shelter and that the shelter management programme has been activated.
“Let me just indicate that I actually went there and paid a site visit and I’m satisfied with the conditions I saw. I want to thank the Seventh Day Adventist Church for their kind assistance. The Salvation Army and Red Cross have also joined, in terms of providing food and toiletries to them,” he noted.

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