KINGSTON, Jamaica – Several employees of the Jamaica Ministry of Labour and Social Security have reportedly been sent on leave following reports that a number of Haitian immigrants have been issued work exemption certificates to gain employment as security guards.
Queries to the Labour Ministry were met with a wall of silence as personnel were said to be unavailable for comment.
Sources within the Labour Ministry also told The Gleaner that there is a directive that no one should speak to the media on the matter.
At least four local security companies are said to have Haitians in their workforce, a revelation that shocked Permanent Secretary Alvin McIntosh when he was contacted a week ago.
“It cannot be so because the job of a security guard does not require any special skill that we cannot find in Jamaica,” he declared. “This will be immediately investigated.”
The Gleaner has, however, received a duplicate of what is believed to be an official document from the ministry: an exemption certificate issued to a Haitian security guard in accordance with the Foreign Nationals and Commonwealth Citizens (Employment) Regulation 1964.
The certificate, which is valid until September 30, 2008 and means the immigrant is exempt from the requirements of a work permit, bears two signatures for the permanent secretary.
A director at one of the companies that has Haitian security guards said he was unaware of any foreign employee, but subsequently disclosed that work documents had been presented for them.
Under Jamaican labour laws, in order for these Haitians to be employed in the position, they would either have to be married to a Jamaican national or deemed a skilled person under the Caribbean Community (Free Movement of Skilled Persons) Act 1997.
Thousands of Haitians have fled their homeland since 2004, with more than 600 of them landing on Jamaican shores since the ouster of then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in February of that year.
The first such group to arrive comprised 10 heavily armed policemen who landed in Manchioneal, Portland that same month.
While hundreds were repatriated, some have subsequently set up homes here and are said to be part of the informal workforce.
Alex Thompson, Commissioner of Immigration, said there is a growing problem of illegal immigrants in Jamaica.
“The system has not been stringent as it should be. But I notice that efforts are now being made to improve the monitoring and screening process of applicants for work permits,” he said.