- Jamaicans are being assured that their rights and welfare will be safeguarded while travelling or living overseas, by virtue of Jamaica’s extensive network of foreign embassies, high commissions and permanent missions in countries with which the Government has established diplomatic relations.
- Director of Diaspora Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Lloyd Wilks, says there are approximately 22 missions and over 80 consuls abroad.
- They spearhead external relations, inclusive of trade-related issues; monitor economic trends in the countries they are based, particularly as these impact Jamaica; and oversee the welfare of Jamaicans on behalf of the Government.
Jamaicans are being assured that their rights and welfare will be safeguarded while travelling or living overseas, by virtue of Jamaica’s extensive network of foreign embassies, high commissions and permanent missions in countries with which the Government has established diplomatic relations.
Director of Diaspora Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Lloyd Wilks, says there are approximately 22 missions and over 80 consuls abroad.
They spearhead external relations, inclusive of trade-related issues; monitor economic trends in the countries they are based, particularly as these impact Jamaica; and oversee the welfare of Jamaicans on behalf of the Government.
“Throughout the world, we have missions… in Africa, Asia, Japan, and China, in Europe, Germany, Brussels, and Geneva. We have honorary consuls in Spain, Italy, and many South American and Caribbean countries, so our representation worldwide is extensive,” he says.
The Director notes the longstanding diplomatic relations the country shares with Canada, the United States, and United Kingdom, which are home to a large number of immigrant Jamaicans. In countries where no missions exist, the Government is represented by honorary consuls.
Apart from carrying out specific duties on behalf of the government, missions engage and provide a wide range of other consular services.
“Our duties go well beyond persons that are incarcerated. We visit detention centres. We interview Jamaicans, who are there, to determine how they are doing and what their welfare state is and how their cases are progressing and if they need us to contact their relatives,” Mr. Wilks says.
He states that the majority of cases received by missions and consuls relate to immigration matters involving Jamaicans, who try to enter territories without the requisite documentation or with false documents.
Additionally, he says there are cases where persons misrepresent themselves at borders. For example, a person might inform an immigration officer that he or she will be working as a security guard but does not have the necessary documents to cover that activity.
“We have persons who are travelling to countries with contraband. They are caught, they are detained and they face a trial,” he adds.
Mr. Wilks says that when persons are detained they are afforded protection regardless of the offence committed.
“So, if an individual is held having committed murder anywhere at all, we still afford them the protection. We still ensure that the person is entitled to and receives proper legal representation,” he informs.
“What the government cannot do is go into court and represent them but we can provide them with a list of lawyers, tell them that they have a right to get an attorney and try and make contact with their family members, so the family may provide resources to fight their case,” he continues.
Mr. Wilks notes that very often, staff in the missions extend their own resources to assist persons. “Jamaicans are fiercely loyal to each other, particularly when they are overseas,” he says.
He informs of a case where Jamaican nationals pooled their resources to bring home the body of a Jamaican, who died overseas.
In the meantime, Mr. Wilks is reminding Jamaicans to know and satisfy the immigration requirements of countries to which they are travelling.
“People ought to make themselves aware of the immigration rules that apply to the country they are travelling to. What is legally allowed? What is illegal? What are the visa and other entry requirements? Do they need to have valid passports and how long the validity needs to be for,” he emphasises.
He also posits that it would be wise for citizens to learn about the customs and traditions of countries they are visiting before they go. This includes learning about racial tension, adding that a wrong word spoken or wrong attitude displayed can evoke a type of response “which might not be good.”
The Consular Affairs officer also notes that when Jamaicans arrive at a port of entry anywhere in the world, they are subjected to the country’s immigration rules and certain international conventions.
“When people travel, they automatically surrender themselves to the laws of the land to which they are travelling to and so those laws will prevail and that judicial system will prevail. Similarly, they are also surrendering themselves to the protection of the state to which they are travelling,” Mr. Wilks states.
“If, regrettably, Jamaicans fall afoul of those laws and might not have presented proper visas or breached the immigration regulations of a foreign country, it means that that country has the right to carry out the letter of its laws,” he continues.
Mr. Wilks assures that matters brought to the attention of the Government that appear to be contrary to the person’s rights will be questioned and investigated to ensure that the rights of citizens are preserved.
He notes however, that the Jamaican Government cannot force another Government to abandon its rules in favour of a Jamaican national.