Opposition Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Lisa Hanna, in a statement today, urged the Government of Jamaica to enter into diplomatic discussions with U.S. authorities with deliberate speed to establish a full understanding of the recent pronouncement regarding the repatriation of our Jamaican nationals during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The call comes against the background of the proposal mooted last Friday by the U.S. President Donald to impose visa sanctions on countries that do not accept the repatriation of their citizens from the U.S. due to concerns over the COVID-19.
“Bearing in mind our limited physical and human resource capacity for state quarantining incoming passengers and the already strained capacity of healthcare, the GOJ must ready itself for the influx should this announcement be acted upon immediately by the US Government. Furthermore, we must be prepared as such a move could lead to pose increased challenges for testing and contact tracing and possibly lead to an escalation in the infection projections,” Ms. Hanna said.
She noted that Jamaica has an admirable record of cooperation with the U.S. government on the execution of repatriation requests without undue delays and in conformity with our national security requirements.
However, she strongly emphasized that the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic must be a priority exception to normal immigration arrangements as is evident in the travel restrictions imposed by numerous governments across the world including the United States.
The concern is warranted given that U.S. has the largest number of persons infected and deaths from the COVID-19 and the growing incidence among those incarcerated as are persons awaiting deportation.
“The protection of our citizens both here and those traveling home is our most urgent priority. There is no doubt that our returning residents who have been in transit in the USA and other jurisdictions must be allowed to return home and we must be adequately prepared to receive them when it is safe and appropriate for both them and the country.”
Ms. Hanna is offering her cooperation to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade on the matter with a view to having a unified political position on dealing with the issue and suggested that this is an item which the CARICOM Heads of government should discuss at their meeting on Wednesday.
“Countries that deny or unreasonably delay the acceptance of their citizens, subjects, nationals, or residents from the United States during the ongoing pandemic … create unacceptable public health risks for Americans,” Trump wrote in the memo. “The United States must be able to effectuate the repatriation of foreign nationals who violate the laws of the United States,” he declared.
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