Current Affairs

Current Affairs



UNHCR Commends Jamaica for Treatment of Haitians

Wednesday, 2004
March 24

Information Minister,
Senator Burchell Whiteman 

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ruud Lubbers, has lauded the Government and the people of Jamaica for the "generosity of spirit" with which the country has received, and continues to receive displaced Haitians.

In a March 16 letter to Prime Minister P. J. Patterson, Mr. Lubbers said that "at a time of instability in Haiti, which has led to the departure of a number of Haitians from their homeland, the UNHCR is greatly heartened by the welcome that Haitians arriving in Jamaica have been given".

He said that the UNCHR regional representative, Kolude Doherty, who was in Jamaica recently, has reported that the handling of the newly arrived Haitians appeared to be in full line with and in some areas exceeded international standards and for this, the UNCHR was grateful.

Mr. Lubbers pointed out that a technical team was being deployed to the island to assist in analysing the needs for responding to the refugees and the UNHCR would be appealing to the international community for funds to help defray the cost to Jamaica.

He said he was particularly pleased to note the Government's staunch public commitment to fulfilling its international refugees protection obligations and refraining from returning the Haitians who had fled. "This is an important and much needed reaffirmation of both the word and the spirit of the international refugee protection principles set out in the international refugee instruments," he said in his letter. He also commended Jamaica for assuming regional leadership in the process.

Meanwhile, the situation in Haiti is expected to top the agenda of the upcoming Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which starts in St. Kitts on Thursday (March 25). The Prime Minister is expected to head a delegation, which will include Foreign Affairs Minister, K. D. Knight.

Haiti's interim leader Gerard Latortue has indicated his intention to attend the meeting, even though the regional body has not yet settled the issue of the recognition of Haiti's interim government.

Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman, speaking to journalists at Monday's (March 22) post Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, said it was up to the regional leaders to decide how Haiti would be treated at the meeting. "It is a matter now for the Heads in their meeting and the legal council which advises them, to determine how Haiti, as it is presently constituted, will be received and treated," he said.

Prime Minister Patterson demits office as CARICOM Chairman before the start of the meeting and Antigua and Barbuda will assume the chair.

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