JIS News

A joint government team has been put in place to render assistance to the approximately 63 Haitians who are now in the island seeking refuge, having fled their violence torn country.
The team comprises representatives from the Ministries of National Security, Labour and Social Security, and Health; the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM); the Jamaica Constabulary Force; Jamaica Defence Force; Social Development Commission; and the Attorney General’s department.
This was stated by Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman, at yesterday’s (Feb. 23) post Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.
He said that the team would continue to deal with arrivals in terms of finding appropriate accommodation, ensuring that health checks were made and interpreters have been engaged to deal with them. “We will be assessing the matter and ensuring that we are able to cope,” he said.
The Cabinet has decided that initially, assistance would be rendered to the Haitians purely on humanitarian grounds and thereafter, in accordance with the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, to which Jamaica was a signatory, their refugee status would be determined and applications taken on that basis.
Senator Whiteman said that it would cost the Government about $1.6 million to accommodate the Haitians, but the figure is expected to increase as more are expected to arrive in the island as the situation in Haiti worsened.
“We have to make temporary arrangements to meet those costs,” he said, informing that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration have indicated that they were prepared to give assistance.
The Minister pointed out that the international diplomatic team, which met with President Aristide last weekend, was successful in putting forward their position to the President, which he accepted.
He noted that while the Opposition was not as receptive, they had indicated that they would have indicated their position by yesterday (February 23).
The international team made it clear that they were accepting and working to the plan of action to resolve the crisis in Haiti, which was developed by CARICOM under the chairmanship of Prime Minister P. J. Patterson.

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