Caribbean Currents: The dream of returning home has become a nightmare for some

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An Op-Ed piece form The Philadelphia Tribune.

As people of the diaspora we always brag about our beautiful island homes. When we sing our National Anthems it’s a renewal of our loyalty to be the best son or daughter we can be. Why? Because the love of country, respect for our leaders and our people have been taught since childhood. Many of us spend our entire life planning that when we retire, we will either spend the rest of our lives in our homeland or spend the winter months there and return to our adopted homeland in the warmer months, spring and/or summer.

Who could have guessed that this way of life could be infiltrated by evil forces that have no regard for the sanctity of life? It’s sad to admit that murders are on the rise in the Caribbean. The murders are happening to specific people! Those who are referred to as returnees because they have returned to their homelands after retirement to live the rest of their lives in their island paradise. For too many people, primarily in Jamaica, these dreams were never (or will never be) realized because they have been brutally murdered. According to Caribbean news reports these crimes are happening in the rural parts of the islands far away from the all-inclusive luxury hotels where proper protocol/security has been put into place to protect hotel guests.

This kind of news is upsetting and scary for Caribbean people who have lived most of their lives abroad and plan to return home. In doing our research, we found that it is primarily men who commission the building of a retirement home in the islands. They spend most of their working lives setting money aside to send home to a relative whom they trust to oversee the construction of a mansion, their “dream home” back in the islands. They will make several trips during the course of each year to personally check up on the progress. Some are able to see the completion of the home and actually fulfill their retirement dreams; while others become ill and never get to see the home completed.

One person who commented on a story in the Guardian newspaper had some very strong feelings about what they see happening in Jamaica. “The island itself, as God’s creation, is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. But the people have turned ugly with jealousy. This kind of behavior was unheard of when I was growing up there. People in the district looked out for children and old people. This lovely couple suffered great pain from being brutally killed. Dear God! These monsters who did this are more dangerous than wild animals! You may be safer among the lions and the tigers and the jackals in the jungle.”

Now that the leaders of the Caribbean region are putting out warnings and relatives and friends are verifying that there is a surge in crimes against returnees, many are rethinking their retirement plans. Percival LaTouche, has been in Jamaica since the 90s, and is president of the Jamaican Association for Resettlement of Returning Residents. LaTouche said in a recent interview that his advice to Jamaicans abroad is to stay where they are and “don’t come home.” He expressed his own sentiments on this matter. He believes that building a home in Jamaica and coming back to stay is a risk for returnees because it could mean losing their lives. The reference to returnees abroad includes all of those across the diaspora in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.

Regardless of the crime, there are still people of character and integrity in the islands who would do anything to stop injustice. The government has recognized that this is impacting the economy and they are working feverishly to put a stop to whoever is perpetrating these crimes.

Our love for country shines through when our people excel. The joy of winning! the joy of coming together on one accord. We must always remember the basis for not just our peace and tranquility but also a love and commitment to God and country. We cannot let this stop us from supporting our family and friends back and going back home to visit. There has got to be a way to come get through this rough patch.

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