Women sent back from UK instead hope for chance to fight deportation
A number of Jamaican women facing deportation from Britain have refused that country’s offer of £5,000 to assist them to re-settle in their homeland before their prison sentences end, fearing that accepting this money will jeopardise the chances of winning their deportation appeal.
The money, given under what is called a “facilitative return scheme”, is to be used by the deported women for housing or income generating purposes.
St Rachel Ustanny, executive director of Hibiscus Jamaica, a programme to help deported women in Jamaica, said some of the organisation’s clients, all women who have completed their prison terms and sent back to Jamaica, have refused the monetary assistance despite not having an income and a home to return to. They have instead opted to live in the ‘hope’ of one day being allowed to return to the UK to appeal their deportation.
“Clients refuse it because they feel if they take the money they won’t be able to return to the UK because accepting it means they will not be able to appeal their cases,” Ustanny told the Observer.
According to the Hibiscus executive director, only a small number of women who have been associated with the Hibiscus programme have taken up the British Government’s offer on the voluntary release.
According to Ustanny, under this voluntary release programme, women who decide not to appeal their cases in the United Kingdom are eligible to apply for the £5,000 (approximately J$684,000) to help them resettle when they return home. She explained that the woman would receive an initial £500 before deportation and upon arrival in Jamaica the £5,000.
Ustanny said the British High Commission in Kingston has sought to sensitise the incarcerated women on the option of taking the money offered by its Government but has not been able to convince most of them.
Ustanny said there have been women in the Hibiscus programme, some who served time for drug trafficking, who could have benefited greatly from the UK’s monetary offer to help them resettle in Jamaica. She made reference to one woman, who despite being housed at a hostel since August, has refused the money.
“She says she doesn’t want their money because she wants to fight her case since she believes that one day she will be returned to the UK,” Ustanny said.
However, Ustanny said that about one per cent of persons deported from the UK stand a chance of winning an appeal against their deportation.
Meanwhile, the Hibiscus programme, which is heavily funded by the British Government, is now also offering assistance to women being deported from Canada and the United States, although there is no funding from these governments.
According to Ustanny, 10 per cent of the close to 75 deportees who are sent back to Jamaica each month are women.
“Since we started getting funding from the Ministry of National Security they have been sending some persons to us from the US and Canada,” she said.
The Hibiscus programme has assisted about 500 women to date, with close to 50 on the list of current beneficiaries.
Some 21 of these women, Ustanny said, have since been trained in sewing for the purpose of establishing a garment production centre at Hibiscus’ West Avenue location in downtown Kingston.
“They will be making things like bed spreads, sheets, curtains, etc, which we will be looking to sell,” she said.
Ustanny said the programme has also spent close to $500,000 in back-to-school support for children of these women.
At the same time, she said the programme has seen an increase in the number of persons who have been deported for sometime now and who are just coming in to seek financial assistance. However, she said the programme’s funding is only for new arrivals and cannot offer emergency accommodation for these persons.
Hibiscus Jamaica was set up by its parent company, Hibiscus London, in response to the high numbers of Jamaican women who were being convicted for illegal drugs and later deported.
Today, the programme which started as a support group for the women and their families, has evolved into an eight-bed residential facility catering to women deported for various crimes.