Jamaica’s newly appointed Honorary Consul to Antigua and Barbuda recently paid a courtesy call to Chief Immigration Officer (CIO), Katrina Yearwood, and members of her senior staff.
According to a release, the meeting served to introduce the diplomat, Onika Campbell-Foie, to the CIO and her staff, to give an understanding of the workings of the department, and to address some of the concerns of the large Jamaican community resident in the country.
“The Jamaica community in the country is perhaps the largest and it is good that we now have someone with whom we can discuss the varied immigration issues that come up from time to time,” Yearwood said as she congratulated Campbell-Foie on her appointment.
“Some of the laws on immigration have been updated and this information needs to be communicated, not just to the Jamaicans but to every other nationality group resident here.”
Campbell-Foie, on the other hand, expressed her willingness to work with the department to solve whatever problems may have existed in the past, noting that the Jamaicans who are afforded an extension of stay are here as a courtesy, and not a right.
The meeting then went into a lengthy discussion on some of the problems with which the department has had to contend over the years. One such was the issue of minors travelling from Jamaica to Antigua ostensibly in the company of a family member, while coming to meet a mother or father in Antigua.
“We don’t know if the person with whom the child is travelling is truly a relative, and quite often, we get reports that the [other] parent back in Jamaica may be unaware of the fact that the child is travelling. These issues border on human trafficking and it is something that we don’t want to encourage or to be a part of,” senior officer in charge of headquarters, Nigel Emmanuel, stated.
Additionally, these children end up in the school system and therefore become a burden on the country.
Also highlighted was the arrangement where local football clubs contract Jamaicans to play football. However, at the end of the season, these players quite often remain in the country illegally as they never return to the Immigration Department to have their status upgraded.
The meeting concluded with Yearwood and Campbell-Foie agreeing to a follow-up session to further ventilate the issues with a view to reaching an agreement on a set of recommendations that would lead to solutions.
The other immigration officials at the meeting were head of enforcement, Wesley Simon, head of intelligence, Teresa Thomas, and head of extensions, Donalie Hunte-Daley.