According to a recent US Immigration report, a total of 137 Guyanese were, for various reasons, deported from the USA in 2017. This, of course, is a significant increase when compared to the previous year (2016), which had seen 93 Guyanese nationals being sent back home.With regard to the rest of the Caribbean Region, Haiti saw 5578 of its nationals being deported in 2017. Similarly, that figure represents a massive increase when compared to 2016, when just 310 Haitians were sent back home. Also, in 2017, 782 Jamaicans were deported; Trinidad and Tobago saw 128 persons being sent back home, and The Bahamas saw 95 persons being deported. Other Caricom nations also saw a small number of their citizens being deported in 2017.The report was very vague in relation to the reasons for the deportations, and also did not provide much detail regarding the background of the deportees. This, of course, has been a major problem for regional Governments, which have always complained that such persons are forcibly being sent back to their countries of birth after years of living in their adopted countries, without adequate information in relation to the deportees’ medical and criminal backgrounds being provided.Caricom Heads have complained bitterly that the practice was having a severe negative impact on the Region, especially as it relates to crime and security issues. They have also noted that very little help is provided by the US and other developed countries in terms of reintegrating the deportees in their country of birth.It is no secret that while some deportees try as much as possible to turn their lives around in their new environment, many of them gravitate towards crime, which in most cases places a huge burden on the State. For this reason, regional Governments have been lobbying the US authorities to be more understanding as to the tremendous negative impact the practice is having on countries. However, the US officials have resisted the argument that the deportations are to be blamed for the increase in violent crimes in the Region.It should be noted that the US has deported hundreds of convicted criminals to the Caribbean annually since 1996, when Congress mandated that every non-citizen sentenced to a year or more in prison be deported upon release.Security officials in Guyana have routinely placed the blame for some high-level crimes on criminal deportees, particularly those crimes that occurred during the 2002-2004 crime wave that gripped the nation, when the Government at the time was forced to enact the 2002 Amendment to the Crime Prevention Act, which stated that any deportee who poses a threat to public safety can be placed under Police surveillance.Additionally, deportation has caused devastating psychosocial effects, not only for deported persons, but for other family members, and in particular their children, the vast majority of whom have been left behind in the US, Canada, or in a few cases other countries, and who have little or no contact with the deported parent.There is no need to elaborate on the challenges that confront countries such as ours when persons who have migrated many years ago are sent back after serving their time in jails overseas. What Caricom Governments need to focus on now is establishing an effective deportee resettlement programme for such persons, to cater for their smooth reintegration into the society; so that once again they can become productive and useful citizens. Many would want to believe that most of the persons who are deported are willing to reform their lives, but the absence of an effective and functioning support mechanism makes this process very difficult.Guyana and its Caricom partners must continue to lobby their US counterparts in relation to information and intelligence sharing regarding criminal deportees, in particular access to complete dossiers on medical and criminal histories. Caribbean leaders must also lobby for more financial and technical assistance to establish reintegration programmes within Caricom Member States, to ensure that each person who is sent back to their country of birth becomes a productive citizen once more.
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