Hundreds of J'cans denied entry into Mexico, Panama since 2018 – Jamaica Gleaner

More than 2,000 Jamaicans who travelled to Panama between 2018 and March this year were denied entry into the Central American country while 81 were deported, Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Kamina Johnson Smith has disclosed.
For the same period, 143 Jamaicans were denied entry into Mexico in North America, as the two countries ramp up efforts to limit illegal migration to the southern border of the United States.
Johnson Smith made the disclosure during Wednesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, days after CARICOM member state Belize signalled that it would introduce a new travel policy for Jamaicans, who were using that country as a transit point to get into the US.
Johnson Smith said that having recognised that there are no direct flights to Mexico, Panama is the route travelled to get to both Mexico and Belize.
As a result, the country has heightened its immigration surveillance, the minister said, which is now affecting both travellers with lawful and unlawful intent.
“We want you to keep this in mind because as much as we try to build relationships and keep strong friendships and lines of communication with our partner countries, these types of decisions can impact lawful travel,” Johnson Smith said.
She said that the ministry is “quite clear and confident” that most Jamaican travellers do so lawfully and for legitimate purposes.
However, she said that the Government remains concerned that some Jamaicans have decided to travel under extremely risky circumstances and, in some cases, exposing children to kidnapping, trafficking, and death.
The US, Panama and Colombia announced on Tuesday that they will launch a 60-day campaign aimed at halting illegal migration through the treacherous Darien Gap, where the flow of migrants has multiplied this year.
The Darien Gap is the geographic region which connects South and North America through Central America.
Nearly 90,000 migrants travelled through the dense, lawless jungle in just the first three months of this year.
“We are trying to be proactive and bring to the attention of Jamaicans that this is not a good decision to take. It is extremely risky for you personally, but it also affects the reputation of our passports,” said Johnson Smith.
Last year, the Mexican government toughened immigration processes in permitting landing to Jamaicans amid growing concerns over an illegal “human-smuggling” corridor to the US.
The development caused increased scrutiny on travellers on bona fide business or leisure trips as Jamaicans with criminal records or other red flags pay thousands of US dollars for safe passage into Mexico.
Data provided by Mexican immigration authorities reveal a drastic increase in the number of travellers from Jamaica.
In 2020, a total of 4,467 Jamaicans travelled to Mexico. A year later, arrivals surged by 68 per cent to 7,509.
For the first three months of 2022, a total of 2,929 Jamaicans travelled to the North American country.
Last week, Belize immigration authorities expressed similar concerns about a human-smuggling ring.
Of the 1,673 Jamaicans who visited Belize over the last 14 months, 895 remain unaccounted for.
“While, again, I want to emphasize that the majority of our travellers are lawful and legitimate, we want to really ask Jamaicans to think while this matter is at this comparatively small number… We do not want the immigration experience of our lawful travellers to get worse.
“We want our athletes, we want our entrepreneurs, we want our family members, we want just the ordinary Jamaican traveller seeking to exercise their right to travel to do so without difficulty, in comfort and with dignity and part of that is our fellow citizens taking sound decisions about travelling lawfully,” Johnson Smith urged.
kimone.francis@gleanerjm.com
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