Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States Audrey Marks kicked off her town hall-style, online meeting with the diaspora on Thursday, March 4th 2021, by assuring Jamaicans that the government is working aggressively to implement all aspects of the Plan Secure Jamaica initiative, aimed at dealing with the crime problem facing the country.
She told the hundreds of Jamaicans who gathered by way of a video conference to participate in the launch of the monthly online program, ‘Let’s Connect with Ambassador Marks,’ that measures to deal with crime on the island remain of highest priority on the agenda of the Jamaican Government.
She observed that crime was a long-standing and complex issue, and the government was working aggressively to implement immediate as well as long-term measures to deal with the problem.
She opined that it is recognized that the island drugs and guns problems, in particular, are directly related to Jamaica’s strategic location between the USA and Central America, the major sources of demand and supply of these contrabands.
As such there are identified areas of mutual cooperation and the Jamaican Government is continuing actions and dialogue with the United States Government aimed at strengthening Jamaica’s ability to manage this crime monster.
“What I can say from our instructions at the Embassy, is that we have put a particular focus with working with the United States Government on Jamaica’s initiative called ‘Plan Secure Jamaica’. We were making significant strides in its implementation up to March last year, but with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, on both sides, we had to reprioritize to address the same. But I am confident that by April, next month, we will get back on track with this continuing engagement and will be able to speak in more detail about the bi-lateral discussions/activities between the government of Jamaica and the government of the United States,” Ambassador Marks said.
In answering questions on the COVID-19 status in Jamaica, she shared that the government was ramping up disaster management measures to address the recent spike in the number of positive cases on the island.
Among the measures implemented, special emphasis was made that all travelers to Jamaica (Jamaicans and non-Jamaicans), are to be tested for the virus at least 72 hours prior to departure and upload their test result to access their travel authorization.
Ambassador Marks then used the occasion to assure the audience that the alleged recent breach of the JamCovid19 website was being addressed. She stated said that the Ministry of National Security had undertaken a review and all changes that are required to strengthen the data and the site are in place however it is an ongoing activity.
It was also noted that business travelers to Jamaica will continue having both a departure and arrival test but will now be required to pay for their Covid Tests immediately after arrival.
She appealed to those persons going home to conform with the quarantine requirements as well as testing protocols as these will go a far way in helping to curtail the spread of the virus.
Ambassador Marks noted that the Government in collaboration with private labs, clinics and hotels, had rapidly expanded Jamaica’s testing capacity, in light of the new United States travel requirements and there were no reported cases of persons being delayed in Jamaica due to the departure testing requirement.
On the matter of deportations, she mentioned that despite the legal challenges with the new Biden Administration’s 100 days Stay – deportation policy, there continues to be good communication with the U.S Government in terms of management of the deportation process. She noted that a number of persons going back to Jamaica under the ‘Involuntary Returning Migrant Program’ are actually the ones requesting that they be sent home after spending a long time incarcerated in the United States.
The Ambassador informed that the Embassy continues to work on the behalf of those persons who have a valid challenge to being deported, to get a fair hearing.
In noting the level of concern regarding security matters, she noted that the next ‘Let’s Connect’ with the Ambassador event will be scheduled for the 8th of April and committed that she will request the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Dr. Horace Chang, to be a special guest.