Departing passengers with luggage at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.
Dionne Rose, Staff Reporter
WITH MORE than 1,400 persons murdered since the year started, the country's crime problem seems to be emerging as one of the main reasons given by persons who have opted to migrate from Jamaica.
Statistics from the Planning Institute of Jamaica's (PIOJ) Economic and Social Survey 2004 indicate a slight increase in the number of persons emigrating to Canada and the United Kingdom for the period 2003-2004.
In 2003, 1,981 persons migrated to Canada. This figure climbed to 2,130 in 2004.
For the United Kingdom, there was also an increase , though slight, from 479 in 2003 to 500 persons in 2004.
Data from the United States Department of Homeland Security's website showed a similar increase in migration to that country by Jamaicans. In 2003, 13,082 persons migrated to that country with 13,565, doing so in 2004.
According to the PIOJ's publication, the largest number of emigrant workers to Canada was concentrated in the professional, senior officials and technicians occupational group.
The publication pointed to "a continuation of the evident brain drain of skilled and professional Jamaicans over the years."
Family reunification was cited as the number one reason for migration to the U.K
Jamaicans who have migrated to the United States and who are in the process of seeking permanent entry to that country, however, attribute crime and economic betterment as the two major reasons for migrating.
Last week, while the rains pounded the pavements of the United States embassy in St. Andrew, this did not prevent a large number of persons from turning up at that office to seek entry to that country.
The Sunday Gleaner spoke with some of these persons who had migrated and those who have started the process.
Rohan Palmer migrated to the United States 16 years ago and has no regrets that he made that decision, considering the unchecked crime rate here.
The reasons he gave for making the decision were that he wanted better economic opportunities, and the escalating crime.
"Crime, 16 years ago?" The Sunday Gleaner asked.
"Yes, the crime was out of control at that time, but it has got worse," he said.
"That was the best decision (migrating) I made. I like to come and visit, but to stay, I could not do that," said Palmer.
He now lives in Florida. When asked how safe Florida was with so many hurricanes hitting that state, he responded:
"It is better to deal with Mother Nature than to deal with the crime rate in Jamaica."
Karen's entire family lives in the United States. Some years ago she opted not to join them. Today, she is seriously reconsidering.
"I was not planning to, but because of the crime I am now looking at migrating," she said
It is a reluctant decision which she has to make. "I really like it better out here. I like everything in Jamaica except the crime," she said knitting her brow.
But for some, they have not given up on Jamaica, despite our crime problem.
William Mallubver is one such person. "I still have faith in the country, but now and then the crime does get to me," he said.
Owen Gordon, who migrated many years ago, told The Sunday Gleaner that when he made the decision to migrate, crime was not one of the reasons. At that time, he was living in Manchester and the only major crimes he experienced were persons stealing goats and pigs, he said laughing.
But that has changed. The economic and social survey showed that there was a declining trend in the overall crime rate over the years 1997-2002, but since 2003, this has been countered by increases.
CSME could lead to more brain drain
AS THE CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) comes into effect, more Jamaicans could be seen packing their bags and trekking off to better economic opportunities.
Under the CSME, Article 45 of the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, "Member States commit themselves to the goal of the free movement of their nationals within the Community".
The implementation of free movement of skills is being done as a phased approach, but the ultimate goal is free movement for all.
According to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, the process of freeing up the movement of all nationals will continue well beyond December 31, 2005 when the key elements of the CSME must be in place.
Some of the categories already enjoying free movement are: University graduates. Media persons, that is persons whose primary source of income is drawn from media-related work or persons who are qualified to enter this field. Artists, that is persons active in or qualified to enter a particular field of art with the specific purpose of earning a living.
Musicians. Sports persons.