Asylum seekers return from Amsterdam

Several Asylum Seekers are back in Jamaica and others are on their way home as they have expressed concerns on the systems there on persons seeking asylum. Apart from the legal concerns many are unable or have difficulty to assimilating into Dutch society. The camp like facilities that many persons are held are the source of complaints, there are stories of African asylum seekers for example are held while being processed for up to two years. There are two types of holding camps, open and closed.

Open camps persons are allowed to leave for personal business like shopping and entertainment such as clubbing but the camper must return and use the national pass provided by the state. The closed camps however are the opposite, persons held in these closed camps have very limited movement outside its precincts and there stipends as paid monthly are managed by the authorities and are held in accounts opened on the persons behalf, food and clothes are provided via orders compiled by the campers on the inside through a list circulated in the facility.

They complain of the inordinate amount of time it takes to be processed although they do admit that others asylum seekers who are not necessarily Jamaicans have committed infractions that make the systems employ stricter measures so everyone suffers the consequences. One familiar practice by many especially African refugees is that they destroy their identification materials upon entry to the country such as passports and other forms identification making it harder for the Dutch authorities to process them. The social scene doesn’t offer much they guys complain and that there aren’t many black men around for socialization, the club scene although varied is not accommodating to some as they are considered to raunchy for some as sex clubs abound and the music tastes is far different.

One other noticeable problem in as far as advocacy is concerned from a local standpoint is that Jamaica Forum for Lesbian Allsexuals and Gays doesn’t seem to have a proper system of engaging possible asylum seekers and explaining the expectations and other ramifications of such a serious move. With the return of the men many of whom left Jamaica in fear of their lives while others went because of friends’ insistence cannot go through the European system to seek asylum for the nest five years as advised by council before their departure. Many Jamaicans have sought asylum in Canada another one of those countries that has an easier set of processing procedures than the Unites States or The United Kingdom. The legal processes for proving ones reasons for seeking asylum are far more stringent than Canada or Amsterdam. We saw a recent success story in the United States where a gay man’s case that was being processes for some three years finally was granted asylum there after affidavits from gay representatives and blog posts from Gay Jamaica Watch and GLBTQ Jamaica’s blogs that carry GLTBQ issues in Jamaica.

How the returnees will adjust financial and otherwise upon their return home is another matter as again the present advocacy framework through JFLAG doesn’t offer that kind of assistance in counseling and otherwise to returnees so as to prepare them for any fallout notably financial given the difficult periods we are now experiencing as a nation. So Amsterdam may not be a viable option save and except for serious cases as some Jamaicans there have opted to stay especially due to the threat on their lives while they were here in Jamaica. There are others who have travelled there on a regular occasions especially during pride seasons, conferences and gay games so it’s not all bad though. As for Jamaicans who have sought asylum in Canada they are settled and seem to have adapted well as the Jamaican population there is much larger there so socialization and assimilation is much easier than in a European context.

Europe in as far as asylum seeking is concerned seemed to be more favoured by Africans and other oppressed states nearby hence the high concentrations of those ethnic groups there.

Anyway welcome home guys and I hope they are able to adjust quickly, knowing how good we are at adapting locally that shouldn’t be a problem.

Peace and tolerance

H

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Gay Man displaced due to fallout from dubious phone call.

A young man from western Jamaica has found himself in hot water as he was duped by a caller who posed as a gay interested party who quizzed him on his personal life. The young man who is 17 years old and lived alone at the time in Western rural Jamaica was already having a warm time of sorts in his community as he was suspected of being gay before by other community and family members. He was the subject of an attack as recent as February where he and three other young men suffered verbal and attempted physical abuse from a group of men in the town’s centre where he hails.

A female friend according to him who was aware of his sexuality seems to have been the orchestrator of the call following up on the most recent incident as mentioned above. He was at a wake and was said to be “under Juice” or dazed from having consumed liquor as is customary at such events, he received the call from an unlisted or private number which from memory he said the call lasted almost over half an hour, the male caller in a romantically and friendly fashion quizzed him for the time about his partners he had and how long he was involved in gay sex and other personal questions. The victim viewed it as unimportant and just another curious romantic interest as he says there have been others in and around the parish who make advances to him from time to time.

However red flags were raised when on the following day after the wake and the incident he was met by the so called female friend who asked if he got a call from a man asking him about his boyfriend etc., the girl proceeded to show the very cellular instrument that was used to conduct the prank along with his number and time of dialing and the relevant code used to make the call appear private on his receiving instrument, since that revelation he has been receiving the cold shoulder from residents in the area and was at one point confronted by a set of persons at a shop nearby but it didn’t result in anything physical. However for his own safety he reached out for help and interventions came from a representative from a new organization, The Underlined Response who saw to it he was extracted from the area leaving what’s left of his personal belongings in the cul-de-sac housing strip where other low income persons reside. He has been living and struggling alone since the passing of his mother for some time now but by virtue of her strong community leadership when she was alive he has been allowed to stay there by all indications. Some members of the community are incensed by the actions of the crank caller while others as expected want him out of the area. The caller himself was allegedly said to be overheard telling other community members of the prank and that the boi a Battyboi. Other details held as per request.

He wants to return home but by virtue of his continued communications with friends in and around the area that doesn’t seem as a sensible option at this time, his family by now has learnt of the incident and he is scared that his older siblings may not take kindly to this. With the closure of the MSM homeless project at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life he is left to stay here and there for now and the tight economic crunch that’s affecting all concerned help is limited both in time and kind. My short interview revealed he is a very bright young man worried about his future and wants to continue from this negative episode.

So the obvious lack of proper interventions to guide young gay men especially those in far rural areas bereft of a proper network in place to reach them has led to this I feel clearly if only there was some guidance here he could have avoided something like this from occurring many GLBTQ people outside of Kingston feel left out of the loop in as far as meetings and social events are concerned, during my time at a previous GLBTQ organization there was an active group in Trelawny who wanted to engage the organization this however was not vigorously entertained.

As to the fate of this young man who has a future ahead of him is unclear at this time the limited pool of resources and assistance is drying up fast as he is housed at a private home. Help if you can please, financially or temporary shelter if possible, other sources contacted already have their hands full with other persons who are in other kinds of problems.

The Underlined Response and I are working towards a possible solution.

Peace and tolerance

H

HIV/AIDS issues and my two cents, Jamaican rep says it’s all talk.

 

The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) is dedicated to advocating for equitable access to effective HIV prevention, care, and treatment services tailored to the needs of gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM), while promoting their health and human rights worldwide. Initiated in 2006 by a group of concerned activists, academics and program implementers with a shared concern for the lack of attention to the expanding HIV epidemic among MSM globally, the MSMGF is governed today by a 20-person steering committee composed of experts from 17 different countries: Australia, Cameroon, Canada, China, Dominican Republic, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Romania, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda, the UK, the US, and Zimbabwe.

DOWNLOAD THE PDF FILE HERE

Further AUDIO COMMENTRY HERE

After reading their policy brief which included comments from various key persons worldwide including a Jamaican representative I was left almost dumbfounded. The comments particularly that got me were as follows:

“If a general population had 10%, 25% or 32% infection rates it would be considered a crisis situation. Yet in the Caribbean programming for MSM is all talk and fragmented, resource-starved action. …Indigenous organizations struggle financially even though that is where the technical expertise is housed.”

Board’s Co-Chair,

Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, Jamaica

MSMGF Co-Chair

This is exactly the reasons why I have been so critical particularly of private Jamaican NGOs chief among them is Jamaica AIDS Support for Life that reaches the MSM community in light of the recent Homeless MSM housing project’s ever changing pending closure and the ugly politics surrounding this, service delivery and the overall on again off again convenient interventions over the years in the MSM community.

If it is all talk and fragmented resources then what has the organization been doing all these years? All talk may be the answer then by virtue of the quote above.

Why for example was the GLABCOM program (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Community activity under the aegis of JASL’s Targeted Intervention Department) was allowed to be ended with no proper action or directives from the Board of Governors, the long running programming activity is being kicked started by the T.I with younger folks who were not properly prepped with the mandate of the activity and thrown in at the deep end. As a former member of the Steering Committee itself I was asked by some of the prospective members to explain what it is about which I found myself sitting in an hour long exchange giving background information, I wish the new members well however knowing the drama that that can also bring.

The housing project that went up was killed before it even got off the ground with the Former Executive Director becoming the sacrificial lamb. I still believe it could have been tweaked and effectively micro managed to achieve meaningful results. The closing date for the house it self has become a moving target and probably deliberately so, I feel it is probably in a bid to silence the uproar it has caused in the sections of the community, continued coverage of this debacle on Gay Jamaica Watch and by extension GLBTQ Jamaica’s coverage of the issues and bringing them to light as the blogging activity was snidely described in a recent LGBT consultative process by the Chairman of the organization’s board as someone sitting in their bedroom somewhere writing something. So clearly the blogs are being read but comments by bloggers have been discounted by the powers that be, a most powerful indication yet of the snobbery, contempt and disregard that obtains in the old systems of advocacy as operated by a few friends. These are Noticeable problems that abound in governance and the national political systems.

As for the struggling financially comment some of the biggest questions asked by many including persons in the national programs and persons associated with donors is where is the accountability on funds dispersed before and were previous funding properly spent?

Strikingly the named organization a pinned to the Co-chair’s name is the umbrella organization covering civil groups catering to HIV work so is it that the CVC also failed to adequately monitor, coordinate and or supervise the activities of theses Non governmental organizations carrying on HIV/AIDS work all these years and are they playing catch up now with the recent set of workshops and seminars in a supposed bid to tap into the community’s issues and to impress international representatives as the race is on to tap into the funding that are to become available through a major funder. Where were previous consultative processes to discuss and solve issues affecting ordinary LGBT people?

The above quoted member was once an Executive Director for a short time of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life so one could interpret his quote as including himself in the mix. The uncooperative nature of the JASL with the national program is not lost to many that are in key places of funding, programming and interventions but as Jamaicans would say a bere mix up and politics mi luv. So even if a new organization wants to commence and grow your hear the names of the old guard keep coming up from proposal readers despite the bad taste in the mouths of many donors who still do business with the entity as the impression given is they the old NGO have been there so long.

Organizations & Interventions on paper

Recommendations in the policy guide that have been heard before:

peer and outreach education,

free distribution of condoms and lubricants,

use of targeted media,

sexually transmitted infections (STI) screening and treatment, and

voluntary HIV testing.

Programming should ensure that HIV service providers have the necessary knowledge, tools and training to provide services to MSM, including the transfer of specialized clinical skills and anti-homophobia training. Furthermore, these must be made available and accessible to MSM in all areas, including urban, peri-urban and rural.

The MSMGF has also identified five key strategic areas where attention is needed in order to halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV among MSM, namely:

Increased investments in programs for MSM•

Expanded coverage of quality HIV-related services for MSM•

Increased knowledge and research on MSM and HIV •

Decreased stigma, discrimination, and violence against MSM•

Strengthened international, regional, sub-regional, and • national networks of MSM

The above recommendations and areas of recognition though poignant they have been said before so the comment about all talk may apply here. The amount of Peer educators that have been trained in Jamaica if properly placed and utilized could have yielded better results I feel and yet we end up with a 30% infection HIV rates in the MSM community, instructive isn’t it? We have workshop after workshop, seminar after seminar and the spirit and ideas die the moment the discourse are ended or adjourned and all these notes and data are generated and stored in printed materials in the form of reports, minutes and rapporteur notes sits in a filing cabinet somewhere to be used when? One is not sure. I guess to prove to funders that some things have been done on paper in the form of reports etc. are enough to sway funders without on the ground evidence.

Specific problems:

The Place (Priorities for Local AIDS Control Efforts) initiatives for example that was rolled out to the MSM grouping 2007 in the form of a study by the National program through the Ministry of Health met a minor roadblock as played out by some key members in the MSM intervention grouping as the tussle between the groups reared its ugly head again where some complain that the National program only seeks to gain statistics and there are no sustained long term interventions in the MSM groups as they (the NGOs) want more support to do so on their own. While those sentiments may be valid how long is it going to take before the get over that and MSMs still are getting infected and suffering. So much for scattered or fragmented resource starved action. It however helped to produce the statistics indicating the jump in infection rates in the MSM grouping to 30% in 2007. The slide show of that study as reproduced by yours truly in available on Gay Jamaica Watch’s Blog under the studies tag.

Accusations of lack of confidentiality by several former service users have also bedeviled the organization for years even till today, why there wasn’t any suggestion to strengthen internal systems of the NGOs involved and adequate capacity building?

Why wasn’t there any recommendation for allowing the inception, development and assistance to new NGOs in the mix who may have new ideas that are implementable?

It is always the same voices speaking on behalf of the community all these years and yet nothing changes it seems to get worse over time, when are new voices especially persons who are new to the halls of policy or proposal development get a chance to speak about the real issues and not reported scenarios from persons who are so called experts, bureaucrats and are not fully experienced on the ground?                              Such is the landscape with the dangerous perception that those who are in power are not particularly interested in accommodating any thing that looks threatening to the status quo.

Many questions with no sure answers, rife speculation in the community, persons who have solutions but who are afraid to act or speak out (cowards) we can’t operate like this and be effective on the ground folks.

All talk indeed.

Sad

Peace and tolerance

H