A headstart on treating with criminal deportees

 True-life dramas enacted in consequence of heedlessly insensitive criminal deportations from the United Kingdom and other countries have had tragic impacts on Caribbean countries. Transportation of criminals back to “home” countries has served the convenience of those places where the crimes were committed. But the practice has largely worked against the best interests of T&T and other Caribbean places struggling to contain local criminality.

 In a practical initiative sure to improve relations with a former colony, and present Commonwealth partner, the UK has now undertaken to help Jamaica monitor and resettle criminal deportees. This decision will be well received across the region, where public opinion has been left bemused implementation in supposedly friendly countries of deportation policies with so evidently damaging effects.

The summary transfer by UK authorities of criminals of Jamaican and other Caribbean origin has long served to cast such policy in an uncaring and cynical light.  Though born in this region, deportees evidently developed and honed their criminal ways in the UK environment. 

For the most part, they know no other home and, for having lived most of their lives abroad, they can be expected to lack the support of family and friends in the island where they are suddenly landed. This has been a recipe for trouble and has been well established and repeatedly demonstrated in T&T and elsewhere. 

Deportees, hardened and wised-up by “first world” criminal experience, have swollen the ranks of outlaws here, where they have not constituted as well charges upon the hard-pressed social welfare agencies.

Unexpected landings of criminal deportees have had predictable security consequences. Co-ordination and simple but decisive communication between local and foreign authorities have long stood in need of improvement.

All this has provided material content for a compelling feature film Home Again made by Caribbean nationals and shot in T&T. In this and other ways, an important message has apparently been communicated. 

Relatively urgent issues should be effectively addressed under the agreement now signed by the UK, at last showing some active responsibility both for the deportees and for the impact of their unexpected arrival upon Jamaica. Under the agreement, UK funding will support Jamaica’s deportee monitoring unit, help in reception and processing, and seek to prevent deportees’ default resumption of criminality. 

As yet, the funding is relatively minor, and the agreement of just 18-month duration. Still, it represents a major concession, marked by recognition of the impact, on more vulnerable societies, of narrowly focussed UK security policies. 

In a small but promising way, the UK has set an example worthy of acknowledgement in the Caribbean, and certainly deserving of attention in the US and Canada. For those countries retain and implement criminal deportation policies and practices that prove signally unhelpful in the Caribbean.

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