After being stuck at sea for almost two months, more than 40 Jamaicans on the Marella Discovery 2 cruise ship will finally get to return home, thanks to assistance from the British government.
The news comes following the government’s announcement of the first phase of re-entry that will allow some Jamaicans, that have been stuck overseas due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, to finally return home.
The 43 Jamaicans on the Marella were reportedly denied entry into the island on April 2, despite being in Jamaican waters. But according to the government, they left the following day, before their request for permission to disembark could have been answered.
They journeyed to Lisbon, Portugal where the ship was reportedly denied access before finally docking in Southampton, England.
The ordeal sparked much debate regarding the constitutional rights of Jamaicans. Many Jamaican residents argued that the government were not doing enough to bring its citizens home.
After some 20 students stuck in Antigua were allowed to return home, the Jamaicans stuck at sea eventually received assistance from the UK government. They arranged for a charter flight for 115 Jamaicans stuck in the country to return home on May 6. The UK noted that the flight is also headed to Jamaica to collect several British travellers who have been stuck in the island. As per the protocol for re-entry, the returnees to Jamaica will have to be quarantined for a state facility for 14 days.
State Quarantine Will Come At A Cost For Jamaicans
Wanting to return Jamaica will come at a cost for even the most vulnerable citizens. While the government will absorb the cost for those cruise ship members returning this week (at a cost of $64 million JMD), other Jamaicans will have to pay USD $20 (roughly JMD $2,500) per day for food and other quarantine needs.
Following the backlash that the cost of mandatory quarantine being too costly for the average Jamaican, the government said that it did not have the resources to pay for all the needs of Jamaicans that will want to return home. According to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, the USD $20 is a subsidized contribution of the actual cost, which is USD $100.
But many Jamaicans stuck at sea and in countries overseas have already exhausted much of their financial resources, having overstayed their visits to many countries like the UK and the United States. Additionally, Jamaicans in the U.S. who were on the verge of having their visa expired were given the option to pay US$450.00 for a visa extension, which many people could not afford due to the circumstances. The Jamaicans are also responsible for making their own travel arrangements to come home, if they had not done so prior to the travel restrictions.
In just the one week that the Jamaican government opened the portal for re-entry application, some 4,000 nationals from around the world submitted applications, wanting to come home. The Jamaican government said that priority will be given to those currently living under the most desperate and distressing circumstances abroad. Concerns have, therefore, arisen as to how exactly these nationals will afford to be quarantined.