Tue | May 30, 2023

Crime, hopelessness forcing Jamaicans to flee by any means necessary, say advocates

Published:Sunday | June 12, 2022 | 12:13 AMErica Virtue - Senior Gleaner Writer
Five-year-old Malaisha ‘Million’ Miller is still missing
Five-year-old Malaisha ‘Million’ Miller is still missing

Desperate for a better way of life, some Jamaicans are willing to be part of the human smuggling trade, by whatever means necessary, as they seek to flee from violent crimes, poverty and a growing distance from the State, according to some persons who are doing missionary work in inner-city communities.

Dr Henley Morgan, who has been working in several inner-city communities for decades but is now based in Trench Town in South St Andrew, said, for the last 25 years, Jamaicans have been using illegal channels, including through Mexico, to enter the United States in search of a better life.

He said news of the recent distress of a woman from Waterhouse, St Andrew, whose child had been reported missing in their quest to reach the US via the Mexican border, is unfortunate, but Jamaicans have been doing it for many years.

“I can’t say that in recent times there has been a mass movement in the number of persons fleeing via this method, but it has been going on for years. I would put it on the same level as those in the gun trade who would hitch a ride on a boat out of here,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.

According to Morgan, data from various studies done over the years showed that 70 per cent of Jamaicans would leave the country if they could, noting that only Afghanistan did not appeal to them.

Last week, it was reported that Teresa Wilson fled Jamaica with her two children, five-year-old Malaisha Miller and an eight-month-old. The three left Jamaica for Panama on May 25, but only Wilson and the baby entered the US. Jamaican and US officials have been working to find Malaisha, nicknamed ‘Million’.

Miller was reported to be trying to escape poverty and crime in her community.

Immigration authorities have said there has been more than a 60 per cent surge in illicit travel between Jamaica and Mexico in 2021, with that country clamping down on locals taking the dangerous voyage.

According to reports, smuggling trips cost in the region of $300,000 per person, and $200,000 extra with a child.

The Bahamas to Florida is also another illegal route of choice for Jamaicans, including many of criminal ilk fleeing their cronies or law enforcement.

According to a senior police source, at least six gang leaders have fled Jamaica since the start of the year, via boats that unload guns, drugs and ammunition and take human cargo for massive fees to a holding country until they reach the US.

“Some have remained in the holding countries incognito, as they are often loaded with cash to sustain them for short and medium term,” the source told The Sunday Gleaner on Friday.

Dr Lucien Jones, who has been operating a clinic at an Anglican settlement in Majesty Gardens in Kingston since 1996, said many of those fleeing were not victims of human trafficking, but were voluntarily trafficking themselves.

“I have been told that many of them have left Jamaica and have gone to the Mexican border. That’s a big thing in the ghetto, using the route through Mexico to get to the United States. So this young girl whose story we hear, it’s part of the ghetto story,” Jones shared.

“People are desperate because they don’t see their way out in this country and they have been ignored for far too long. All of us know the story that they are galvanised when election time comes, but ignored after.”

According to him, people are tired of being used to win elections, and many were willing to take their chances elsewhere, irrespective of the danger that lies ahead.

“It’s part of the reason why many people are not voting. They are opting out of the society, which they do not feel a part of,” he explained, adding that it was sad that too many see themselves as badly treated foreigners in their own country.