Steer them back on track!
Statistics show that deportees constitute just two per cent of the criminal population in Barbados, but a criminologist is suggesting that they may be a bigger problem than the numbers show.
Criminologist Yolande Forde, stressing that not all deportees are up to no good when they return, urged authorities to move forward with recommended initiatives that would steer them from picking back up bad habits at home, and help them reintegrate into society.
Her appeal came after Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin downplayed the impact of deportees on the crime situation in Barbados, calling it an “emotive” issue. He was speaking during THE NATION’S Talkback town hall meeting at Lester Vaughan School on Wednesday night.
“We do not have a significant problem with deportees here in Barbados,” Dottin said.
“At our last count we’ve received just over 1 000 deportees over the last decade and a half . . . and from year to year we’ve found that of the offender population, deportees would constitute about two or so per cent and the crimes that they commit mirror the crimes that Barbadians who offend commit.”
But Forde contended that the impact could not be measured using only numbers.
“Some criminal deportees bring a certain level of criminal sophistication that cannot be measured statistically, and the best criminals are never caught, so they’re not reflected in the statistics,” she said.
She added there was clear evidence that all deportees were destined to resume illegal activity once back here.
Forde, who was Government’s first criminologist, has asked authorities to consider implementing recommendations she made in 2002, including the establishment of an entrepreneurial venture that embraces deportees.
“They’re not just criminals, they’re human beings who have been displaced . . . there are lots of people who come back to the Caribbean who nobody is interested in, or receiving, and that is going to be a problem. There is no programme, to my knowledge, to reintegrate or assist deportees in any way, so [they] have to fend for [themselves],” she said.
Forde’s suggestion is that when met at the airport by law enforcement officials who, according to Dottin “debrief” them, deportees should be offered assistance, including the opportunity to make a legitimate living.
The police chief said he hoped foreign countries that sent criminals back here could assist in the reintegration process.
“Recognising they’re not going to change their [deportation] policy, rather than shout from the housetop that those countries are offloading these criminals on you, I think it is more beneficial to argue for support in resettling those people. One of the things that we’ve insisted deporting countries do is to give us information on prisoners – what crimes they were convicted for, etcetera,” he said.
As far as tracking deportees is concerned, Dottin said there were intelligence programmes, but declined to disclose the details.
President of the Prison Fellowship, Win Callender, said Barbadians should not be too quick to blame deportees for crime.
He said a study on the deportee impact on crime in the Caribbean would soon be completed, but it has shown that those returning were often not the ones to blame.