Eight Jamaicans who returned to the island on a charter flight from the United Kingdom on Tuesday (Feb 11) are being housed at the Open Arms Shelter in Kingston as the realisation that they have nowhere to go finally set in.
According to an official, the eight had to be sent to the shelter because no one came to receive them following their deportation and they could not remain at the Special Operations Unit on Merrion Road where they were processed.
Homelessness has been a reality for persons deported to Jamaica after spending most of their lives in a foreign country.
Seventeen Jamaicans were deported from the UK, 16 men and a lone woman. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the now-repatriated Jamaicans as “foreign criminals”.
The deportees, many of whom had been living in the UK for decades, shunned the media—hiding behind multiple layers of clothing, masks and headwear. It is not clear if they did this out of shame or a desire to protect their identity.
They arrived on the island on a chartered flight that landed at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) in Kingston around midday.
Relatives and friends, who turned up at the processing centre at the Specialised Operations Unit, appeared visually uneasy by the strong media presence outside the facility. Added to their discomfort was the heavy dust whipped up by strong winds.
Security was vacuum-tight as the police seemed to be in no mood to entertain any mishaps. The public gym and ATM on the premises were off-limits and every vehicle was screened before being considered for entry.
The deportees were fed a light meal as police personnel asked family members to present their identification to complete the reintegration process. One by one, the deportees walked out of the Special Operations Unit—their heads hung or covered completely, perhaps out of contempt for the unrelenting media.
Defensive family members spat insults at what they described as “overeager journalism” as they walked away. As cars rolled up, the deportees who were fortunate enough to have a waiting home, hopped in as they did their best to avoid the cameras.