Wed | Jun 19, 2024

Gov’t should ensure discrimination-free travel for citizens

Published:Tuesday | April 23, 2024 | 12:07 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

With the increased sense of African pride, more individuals are visiting countries where their ancestors may have come from. Jamaica and other countries in the Caribbean have not been left out. Celebrities from around the world flock to our shores and sing their praises, even despite warnings from their home countries about potential dangers. Being black, unambiguously black, is now in vogue like never before. This is good. Marcus Garvey would have beamed in pride at seeing his dream of African unity taking shape.

The recent visit of a delegation from the Dominican Republic (DR) is seen by some as a step towards the much-needed unification of the Caribbean, aligning with Garvey’s vision, especially given the seeming disconnect between the English- and French-speaking West Indies and Spanish-speaking neighbours. Economically speaking, they would be right – prosperity follows free trade. But what cannot be ignored even as fingers on both sides itch to sign the relevant contracts, is the DR’s firm stance against Haitian migration and its evident prejudice against darker-skinned individuals.

The US Embassy in the DR even issued a warning to its citizens of darker skin tones travelling there. They said “travelers to the Dominican Republic have reported being delayed, detained, or subject to heightened questioning at ports of entry and in other encounters with immigration officials based on their skin color ... detaining those they believe to be undocumented migrants”. This suggests that not even the might of the bald eagle on your passport can shield you from racial profiling, potentially leading to unjust treatment or even deportation to a country you have no ties to.

This is concerning, given the statements of the deputy foreign minister of the Dominican Republic, José Julio Gómez, expressing his desire for increased bilateral movement with Jamaica, including waiving visa requirements for DR citizens. As agreements are made, discussions are had, and memoranda are signed, maybe this is the time for the Jamaican Government to do its part to ensure that the vision for a united African diaspora is not marred by the remaining traces of racism and colonialistic prejudice.

Our leaders must ensure that every Jamaican can travel without fear of harassment or discrimination. This is not only about protecting Jamaican citizens, but also about advocating for fair treatment for our neighbours in the wider African diaspora.

After all, our elders did say, “Tiddeh fi yuh, tomorra fi mi.”

OLIVIA VALENTINE