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Criminal deportees and the crime situation

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Crimes of a particularly violent nature are increasingly causing serious problems for law enforcement throughout the Caribbean and Latin America and intensifying worries about personal security among the law-abiding citizens of the region. In country after country, brutal murders, kidnappings and other violent acts are virtually terrifying large sections of the population.{{more}}

According to law enforcement agencies, the origin of much of this crime wave can be traced to the actions of criminal deportees, especially from North America. The flow of criminal deportees to the region began in 1996 when the US Congress passed a law making it mandatory for every non-US citizen who was sent to jail for more than one year to be deported to their country of origin on release.

Last year alone, 139,368 such persons were unleashed by the US on communities in the region. Add to that the number sent home from Canada. Such is the concern that official complaints have been made by governments, not just in the Caribbean, but in the wider Latin American region as well, both about the deportation policy and the manner in which it is handled.

Country after country, whether it is Guatemala or Guyana, St Kitts/Nevis or El Salvador, Honduras or our own SVG, the complaints have been steadily mounting about the effect that the deportation policy is having on crime and social stability throughout the rest of the hemisphere, save for Canada and the USA. Our own Prime Minister recently reiterated this concern in a radio interview.

Governments and law-enforcement agencies in the affected countries also voice their disapproval of the lack of information provided on the criminal history of those deported and have repeatedly called for such background information to be provided when persons are deported. As Prime Minister Gonsalves pointed out, a person may be deported for an immigration offence, but that person may possess a frightening criminal record which is not shared with our police.

The negative impact of these deportees is felt not only in the crimes that some of them commit after deportation, but also the pernicious influence they exert, especially on young, vulnerable hero-worshippers in the communities, as well as on young offenders with whom they mix in prison.

In recent times, police in SVG have been investigating several serious offences, including including murder, robbery, fraud, burglary, kidnapping, carjacking and drug, firearm and ammunition related offences in which they strongly suspect deportees may be involved. The situation in relation to criminal deportees is one that has aroused a great deal of outrage and calls for some sort of action to be taken to handle the situation. It clearly calls for cross-border cooperation between governments and law agencies throughout the region, intense advocacy and lobbying to try and get the two governments in North America to listen to our concerns and to respond positively.

Efforts are already in train to enlist US congressional support and these must be supported strongly. A congressman in the USA has promised to pursue the matter and has urged leaders of the Caribbean and Latin America to hold a summit on the issue. This deserves urgent attention, as does the call for the provision of relevant background information on deportees and the establishment of a database to track such criminals. The impact of these returnees on the crime situation in our countries is serious and getting a handle on this matter to bring it under control should be an important component of our crime fighting arsenal.

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