By Alphea Saunders
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) -- Deputy executive director of Jamaica’s Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Richard Thompson, has assured that there are no health concerns regarding 25 Haitians who arrived in Portland by boat on February 5.
He said the ministry of health has already conducted tests for diseases, such as malaria and dengue.
Thompson was speaking at Wednesday’s press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister, which was hosted by minister with responsibility for information, Senator Sandrea Falconer.
The group of Haitian migrants included seven children, sixteen men, two women, four boys and three girls, from 2 to 14 years old. Also included are a two-year-old child, who was born in Jamaica, and six other persons who had previously arrived in Jamaica following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Thompson said it is estimated that it would cost the government some $45,000 (US$480) per day to care for the group, inclusive of food, water, electricity and gas.
Falconer, in acknowledging the cost to Jamaica, said she has heard the questions about cost, but apart from the fact that “we are signatories to the UN Convention it is in the DNA of Jamaicans that we take care of people.”
“We can’t have Haitians in need who have come to our country and we do not make sure that they are taken care of. We treat them as we would like any other country to treat Jamaicans who go there. We want to cut down the length of time that they are here on our shores, but as long as they are here, we will ensure that they are taken care of – medical treatment, food and shelter,” she said.
The group is being housed at the ADRA facility in Portland, where they will remain until Friday, February 8, after which they will be moved to another location in Portland, and then repatriated to Haiti.
Mr. Thompson said this should be done by early next week. “That process (repatriation) is not a quick process, but what we try to do is ensure that it is speedily dealt with,” he added.
In the meantime, border patrol has been increased by the Jamaica Defence Force, and on-site security is being provided by the Jamaica Constabulary Force.