Dear Mr Brown,
I believe that the travel advisories from Canada about Jamaica are ironic and hypocritical because the prime minister of Canada and his family recently vacationed on the island. How can Canada try to stop Canadians from coming here when their prime minister was here on vacation?
The first travel advisory was issued in early December, shortly after a state of emergency (SOE) was imposed in eight parishes on December 6. However, this travel advisory was updated on December 28, the same day that a new SOE was imposed across eight parishes.
The Canadian Government has issued an advisory to warn Canadians to exercise a high degree of caution in Jamaica due to the high level of violent crime. The current advisory informs Canadians that the Jamaican Government reinstated SOEs in several parishes due to increased violence and gang-related crime, and that the SOEs in Jamaica essentially entail increased searches, seizures, and detention of persons of interest.
According to the travel advisory, violent crime — including armed robbery and murder — is a problem in large cities and tourist areas, including parts of Kingston and Montego Bay, despite the presence of police to counter criminal activity. The availability of firearms is widespread, and most violent drug- and gang-related crimes, especially murder, involve guns. There is a risk of becoming the victim of crossfire in these areas. Tourists are also at risk of crimes of opportunity, especially theft and robberies.
Canadians are encouraged to take actions such as:
• Cooperate with military and police officers
• Carry valid ID at all times
• Be prepared to encounter various checkpoints
• Allow extra time to reach destinations
• Follow the instructions of local authorities
• Monitor local news to stay informed.
Position of the Jamaican Government
Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared SOEs in certain parishes to curtail increased criminal activities and bolster public safety, after carefully considering recommendations from the security chiefs.
Regarding the justification for SOEs it was stated, amongst other things, that:
• The threat levels for ongoing gang conflicts, contract killings, organised robberies of businesses, hijacking of goods in transit, and various scams that lead, ultimately, to the loss of lives, spreading of fear, and the depriving of entire communities of their freedom to pursue their business and happiness, remain elevated and extensive in scale.
• The Government has to maximise and use all lawful means to multiply and project its security resources, not only to investigate and interdict after the occurrence of crimes or loss of lives but to increase presence to deter criminals and conduct various operations to pre-empt them.
• The murder rate [in Jamaica] is unacceptable in any country, by any standard, by any means.
The basis of the travel advisory
The Government of Canada is not preventing or attempting to prevent anyone from travelling to Jamaica. The Government owes a duty of care to advise Canadians of the risks of overseas travel. It is important to note that most Canadians are more familiar with the all-inclusive vacation experience than the state of affairs of the Jamaica society. Therefore, it is reasonable to include information regarding risks such as the nature, level, type, extent, duration, prevalence and location; as well as practical information regarding expectations and how to handle the risk. According to Prime Minister Holness the risk is exceptional, therefore it can only be prudent for the Government of Canada to alert its citizens and to make recommendations accordingly.
Canadians are advised about the high degree of caution that should be exercised in Jamaica regarding matters of:
• Violent crime
• Petty crime
• Women’s safety and sexual assault
• The spiking of food and beverage
• Credit card and ATM fraud
• Water activity and water sports.
Road safety and conditions
The driving conditions in Canada are vastly different, so the advisory is particularly important. For example, regarding road safety and transportation the travel advisory states that driving in Jamaica can be dangerous due to:
• Narrow, winding roads
• Insufficient road maintenance
• Poor lighting
• Inadequate signage
• Poor lane markings
• Damage to roads during the hurricane season
• Speeding, as well as driving under the influence of marijuana or alcohol.
The advisory warns that public transportation is generally not safe due to high levels of crime and overcrowding, and that Knutsford Express offers safe, reliable and comfortable bus transportation between major towns, while only taxis ordered from hotels and authorised by the Jamaica Union of Travellers Association (JUTA) should be used.
There is no reason to be sceptical over the Canadian authorities’ travel advisory. Every time an SOE is declared or the circumstances leading to an SOE pose a higher level of risk, there will be a corresponding advisory by the Government of Canada (as well as other countries.) As such, unless the Canadian prime minister was not advised of these matters, I do not perceive his vacation ironic. I am sure the necessary security and protection protocols continue to be taken for his family (which would not be afforded to the average Canadian tourist.)
Travel advisories are normal. They are unlikely to negatively affect tourism. The all-inclusive vacation and corresponding security and protection that dominate the enclave tourism product of Jamaica provide relative safety for the average tourist. Jamaica continues to be one of the top vacation destinations in the Caribbean.
Please visit JAMAICA2CANADA.COM for additional information on Canadian permanent residence programmes including Express Entry, the Study & Work programme, visas or appeals, etc.
Antonn Brown, BA, (Hons), LLB, MSc, RCIC, is an immigration counsel and an accredited Canadian education agent of JAMAICA2CANADA.COM— a Canadian immigration & education firm in Kingston. Send questions/comments to email@example.com
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Dear Mr Brown,