The Human Element of Migration

UNDP Resident Representative Dr. Arun Kashyap and stakeholders discuss a copy of the JMDI Handbook Migration for Development. Photo credit: Ishango Photography.

In discourse about migration, the emphasis is normally placed on the receiving country. All countries who accept refugees or those seeking economic advancement have heated rhetoric about competing for jobs and resources with foreigners. Yet migration impacts the sending countries as well, in profound social and economic ways. As a country with a large diaspora, Jamaica suffers particularly acutely from a lack of management of its migrant families and those left behind.

The exodus of so many individuals - many educated, many parents, many the heads of households – inevitably tears the fabric of society. The families of those left behind often suffer severely psychologically and emotionally, with heightened cases of abuse from caretakers for young children and an increase in behavioural problems from those with absentee children.

Another issue in migration is the large number of Jamaicans deported from first world countries, some of whom have spent very little time in Jamaica. These individuals suffer significant re-entry shock as well as from the social stigma that exists for deportees. Many see them as threats to society, when in reality many have been deported for fairly innocuous offences such as overstaying visa limitations.

For these people, reintegration into society can be difficult. Without friends or family on the island, it is a monumental task to orient oneself, readapt to the culture, find housing, obtain necessary documentation and find employment. The current difficulty of establishing a life breeds conditions for creating reoffenders or encouraging attempts at illegal emigration. “That stigma is always going to be there, no matter what. With friends, family, no matter how they sit and laugh with you, that stigma is always going to be there.” Says Alfred, one of the reintegrated deportees interviewed for the British High Commission’s reintegration work. Drawing from his own experience, he emphasized the importance of receiving support to cope psychologically and logistically with adaptation into society as a productive citizen.

The UNDP’s Mainstreaming Migration project works with these people in mind to help the government of Jamaica formulate policy that is inclusive of the very real and pressing issued faced by large sections of the Jamaican community.

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