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Portland police urge caution in dealing with future Haitian refugee arrivals

Updated: Jul 2

KINGSTON, Jamaica - The police in Portland are urging residents to be cautious and consider certain risks if faced with a repeat of Monday’s, July 10 arrival of 37 Haitian nationals.

The group, comprising 29 adults (24 males and five females), five boys and three girls, landed on the Boston Beach aboard a small boat and were assisted by residents before the authorities arrived.

Speaking during Thursday’s Portland Municipal Corporation meeting in Port Antonio, Commanding Officer for the Portland police division, Superintendent Lloyd Darby, while commending the residents for their kindness extended, highlighted several possibilities for future consideration.

“The citizens who first encountered the Haitians did a commendable humanitarian job by assisting them with food and water upon arrival. However, I caution that if there is a repeat of this kind of mass arrival, that the citizens be careful of the risk of persons among the group who might be armed,” he said.

“[There is] also the possibility of the risk of infectious diseases. So [residents] should properly mask themselves [during] their interaction with them before the authorities reach,” the senior officer added.

Superintendent Darby indicated that a multi-agency approach was taken to deal with the situation, adding that the Haitians are being housed at a facility in St. Mary where the process of interviews by the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) was undertaken.

Interviews were also conducted by the Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigations Branch (CTOC).

Superintendent Darby advised that he is awaiting the unit’s feedback “to see if there is anybody among the group that is of national security interest, whether in Jamaica or in their home country of Haiti”.

In the meantime, Medical Officer of Health for Portland, Dr Sharon Lewis, endorsed the superintendent’s caution, while providing a report on the health profile of the Haitians.

She informed that the 37 individuals were processed at the Port Antonio Health Centre and received aid from member agencies of the parish disaster committee.

“They received medical checks and were, for the most part, in good health. Some of them had mild to moderate dehydration. Those with respiratory symptoms were all tested for COVID-19, and we are glad to say that all results were negative,” Dr. Lewis reported.

She further indicated that the entire group returned negative malaria results. They will continue to be monitored and treated by the health team in St Mary.

Dr. Lewis also commended members of the Portland health team, noting that “most of them were new to this experience”.

“[They made] themselves available at such short notice and worked as a team to get the processing of the Haitians completed,” she pointed out.

Similar sentiments were shared by Mayor of Port Antonio, Councilor Paul Thompson, who commended the agencies involved for their collaborative effort.


Jamaica Observer

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