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US money to help deportees

The United States Government has agreed to help fund the refurbishing of the Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre in Portmore, or a similar facility, which will be used for the rehabilitation and training of deportees, Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States Audrey Marks has revealed.

“That process is now ongoing. We have sought funding from the US Government because our position is that most persons coming back to Jamaica as involuntary returning migrants have spent most of their lives here in the US. And so, we have been asking for a contribution to the resettling of those persons in terms of capacity. So, the refurbishing of Fort Augusta or a similar place is what they have agreed to do,” Marks said Thursday during the first airing of her new online programme Let’s Connect with Ambassador Marks.

The monthly town hall-style discussion is aimed at updating Jamaicans in the diaspora on various issues of interest to them as well as getting feedback in relation to matters of concern.

Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic 46 deportees arrived in Jamaica on April 21, 2020 after the Ministry of National Security put measures in place to facilitate their safe return. A month later, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that an additional 40 were among 220 Jamaicans scheduled to arrive in the island from the United States by air.

At the time, the returnees were quarantined for two weeks in a secure Government facility, where they were processed by health authorities.

A week before their arrival the security ministry said the Ministry of Health and Wellness had conducted sensitisation sessions with staff at the facility, detailing potential health risks of the novel coronavirus and how to detect and report signs of infection.

After the 14-day quarantine period the deportees were allowed to reunite with their families.

The Jamaican Constitution and the Nationality Act underscore the responsibility of the Government to accept Jamaicans who do not possess legal right to remain in other jurisdictions.

On Thursday, Ambassador Marks said both Washington and Kingston are now “going through logistical details” in relation to the facility.

“Is that the most suitable place, or should we look at some other options,” she said of the current talks. “But the most important thing was to first secure the funding, and now we’re going through the details of getting somewhere refurbished.

“Because of the work that is being done by that group, we will definitely also keep you in touch with the progress of where it is that we’re going to be getting a refurbished facility for the resettling of involuntary returning migrants,” Marks said.

When the Jamaica Observer contacted Minister of National Security Dr Chang yesterday he declined to comment.

An effort to get a response from minister without portfolio in the ministry, Senator Matthew Samuda, was also futile. Samuda stated: “I wouldn’t be able to speak to that, because I didn’t see or hear her statement.”

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