Diaspora wants ease of visa restrictions on athletes

JAMAICA will be leaning on the lobbying efforts of its estimated three million members in the Diaspora to help convince developed countries to ease visa restrictions on the island’s athletes and other groups.

Professor Neville Ying, executive director of the Jamaican Diaspora Institute, told yesterday’s media launch of the 2010 Jamaican Diaspora Convention at the foreign ministry in Kingston that the issue would be put on the table at the forum, which will run from June 14 to 17 at the Sunset Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios, St Ann. Some 700 Jamaicans from the United Kingdom, United States and Canada are expected to attend.

“You are well aware of the restrictions that are being placed on some of our athletes; we want to determine the cause and how can the Diaspora help to work on issues like that,” Professor Ying said.

He said the Diaspora held some sway and was confident that it could use those powers to effect change.

“The whole Diaspora movement operates at several levels; for example, the Jamaican community in Britain are in pockets where they can actually influence the elections so that the politicians there actually listen to them. It’s that kind of force we are trying to bring by strengthening the Diaspora,” added Professor Ying.

The lobby proposal by the Diaspora comes just weeks after high school track and field teams from Holmwood Technical and St Jago High were forced to whittle their squads after several members were denied US visas to travel to Philadelphia, United States for the annual Penn Relays. Eight of 15 St Jago team members had their visa applications turned down, while of Holmwood’s three male athletes, only one was accepted. The school was also left uncertain about the position regarding another six applicants at the time.

In the meantime, Professor Ying said the convention is being held outside of Kingston for the first time this year, in keeping with its theme “Partnering for Transformation — Jamaica and its Diaspora”. It will focus, he added, not only on the value of the group in terms of tourism and investment, but also its well-being.

“One of the things we have to recognise at the convention is that we are not only concerned with what we can get from the Diaspora, but we are concerned with how they are coping where they are and the struggles they have to build their communities and be vibrant where they are…” he said.

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