#Kingston, Jamaica, November 2, 2022 – The Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) is to introduce a new customer relationship management system as part of several planned upgrades to streamline the services of the agency.
Chief Executive Officer, PICA, Andrew Wynter, said the project is part of the agency’s mandate to strengthen Jamaica’s relationship with the diaspora.
“We are looking at ways to leverage technology that will certainly enhance your experience in accessing any of the products or services that the agency has to offer,” he said. Mr. Wynter was addressing the recent ‘Let’s Connect with Ambassador Marks’ virtual session.
PICA accepts and processes passport applications, manages the island’s immigration processes, and handles citizenship matters. Other initiatives that have been implemented by the agency include automated kiosks, upgrading the passport system, digitised passenger declaration form, and the introduction of a simplified passport renewal form for adults.
“If you have a machine-readable passport and your information has not changed since your last passport, you don’t need a notary public. You just complete the simplified form, bring in your passport, and we are able to now process your application information much quicker,” Mr. Wynter said. He added that the initiative is part of several measures being implemented by the agency to make the processing services easier.
Mr. Wynter said the agency’s ‘Access Jamaica’ programme, which provides direct support services to the diaspora in passport processing services, has also been instrumental in providing ease of access to PICA services. Under the programme, a team from PICA recently provided direct services to members of the diaspora in the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK).
In the USA, the team visited Atlanta in Georgia; Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Hartford, Connecticut; and in the UK, London.
“We have found that these programmes help to support the various Missions overseas, because we know that since the (COVID-19) pandemic, the diaspora’s demands on the Missions have increased, so we as an agency are working very hard to provide services that complement and support them,” he said.
Contact: Rochelle Williams
Guyana to build regional food hub
#Guyana, September 29, 2023 – Guyana is making moves to become the primary food production center for the Caribbean, going ahead with plans to develop a USD$14 million regional food hub.
In fact, as reported by the Observer, the facility has already been identified on the country’s Soesdyke /Linden Highway.
“We want Guyana to be the food hub, the primary production hub of the Caribbean so that we could supply the Caribbean. What we have, our colleagues in the Caribbean don’t have. We have arable flat land and abundant fresh water,” he said, adding that with the multi-million dollar US investment, the country can, “modernise the infrastructure, and start ramping up the productions.”
Also, the Agriculture Minister pointed out that the project is geared to make for a more competitive local Agriculture industry as well as developing high-yielding varieties, pest-resistant and climate-resilient varieties.
Additionally, in the facility’s development, Guyana, Mustapha said, will work with Belize.
In fact, with more on Belize’s involvement, Dr. Ashni Singh, Finance Minister, informed that the Government is in talks with the Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley about sourcing inputs from northern Brazil and transporting them through Guyana to Barbados and vice versa.
Singh also reportedly revealed that the project will help develop the growing logistics industry in Guyana.
Considering regional food import cost, with this development, Guyana is the leading Caribbean Community country pushing ahead with plans to reduce the multi-billion dollar regional food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025, the Observer says.
Cayman makes striking policy change to include more blood donors
#CaymanIslands, September 29, 2023 – The Cayman Islands overturned a policy that banned blood donation from people who visited the island from or resided in countries where “mad cow disease” existed. This was revealed by Sabrina Turner, Health Minister in Parliament, as reported by CNW Network.
People who resided in Britain from 1980 to 2001 and those who had blood transfusions in the UK after 1980, can now donate blood.
Due to recent risk evaluation, and the current protocol for blood donors, many nations, CNW reports, have re-evaluated and adjusted similar guidelines regarding blood donation, as Cayman Islands has now done.
The now initial restrictions on blood donations for the country was called for and was important as at the time of implementation, “mad cow disease” or as it’s scientifically called, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), was at-large affecting not just cows, but also people, who are able to contract “a version of BSE called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD),” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says.
The likely reason for the Cayman Islands’ targeted population of those affiliated with living in the UK or getting blood transfusion in the UK, was because most of the people with vCJD lived in the UK, as highlighted by the FDA.
Also, as BBC says in a 2018 report, 1 in 2000 people in the UK is thought to be a carrier of the disease, even though some who are carriers don’t go on to develop symptoms.
However, the change in Cayman Islands’ policy does not mean the disease is no longer out there.
In fact the FDA said, “as of 2019, 232 people worldwide are known to have become sick with vCJD, and unfortunately, they all have died. It is thought that they got the disease from eating food made from cows sick with BSE. Most of the people who have become sick with vCJD lived in the United Kingdom at some point in their lives. Only four lived in the U.S., and most likely, these four people became infected when they were living or traveling overseas.”
Bwa Kalé movement striking back against gangs, nearly 3,000 murdered
#Haiti, September 29, 2023 – In eight months, nearly 3,000 Haitian people have been slaughtered in their home country due to the upsurge and uprising of gangs in the republic which is struggling to hold its democracy in check.
‘Bwa Kalé’, it’s a vigilante movement that has sprung up in Haiti, and the UN says it is driving up murders.
A recent report following an expert visit detailed it.
“Certain groups have formed allegedly to protect their neighbourhoods from gangs. In some instances, these groups have summarily executed people suspected of being gang members. The Bwa Kalé movement demonstrates the population’s lack of trust in the State, especially in the police and the courts. The expert has learned that some members of the police and the judiciary have been complicit with gangs.”
Despite the obvious fear among residents, the UN is warning them not to take justice into their own hands. However, that is easier said than done as Haitians have demonstrated their feelings of abandonment by fleeing the island in mass numbers on illegal voyages and standing up to the gangs themselves.
In the same report, one said: “The State is absent, there are no police or other officials operating there.”
According to AP, a new report to the U.N. Security Council indicated that 2,728 intentional killings were recorded between October 2022 and June 2023, including 247 women, 58 boys, and 20 girls. Bwa Kalé is blamed partially for the increase, as life in the country is described as unbearable.
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