Rebuilding Self and Country: Deportee Reintegration in Jamaica (Bernard Headley and Dragan Milovanovic, 2016, Migration Policy Institute)

More than 45,000 Jamaicans were deported from abroad between 2000 and 2014, primarily from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Each month these countries return more than 100 Jamaicans on average to a nation grappling with persistently high levels of crime and poverty.

Deportees are not greeted with open arms upon return, in part due to a widely held view in Jamaica and the Caribbean more broadly—fostered by the media and government institutions—that they are to blame for the region’s public safety troubles. A connection between deportees and crime has some precedent in other parts of the world; there is some evidence, for example, that the rise of transnational Central American gangs such as MS-13 was fueled by deportation of gang members from the United States. However, the same cannot be said for Jamaica, where only a tiny share of criminal deportees commits new crimes.

This article discusses the constructive roles returned migrants—a socially stigmatized population seen as criminal and unemployable—can play in rebuilding their lives while advancing the larger project of national development. It examines the experiences of a group of men and women in Jamaica deported from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada for criminal offenses, who now seek to contribute to their home country and to redefine what it means to be a deportee.