Pubdate: Tue,  7 Jan 2003
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2003 Associated Press


KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP)--The British government, under pressure to stem the 
flow of illegal drugs and migrants from Jamaica, may soon require visas for 
Jamaicans seeking to enter the country, officials said Tuesday.

Jamaican and British officials discussed the matter during a private 
meeting Monday at the British High Commission in Kingston, Jamaican Foreign 
Ministry spokesman Wilton Dyre said.

"The British government is giving urgent consideration to the (visa) issue 
with a view of making a decision later this week," Dyre said.

Currently, Jamaicans need only a plane ticket and a valid passport to enter 
the U.K. for a period of up to six months.

But some British lawmakers recently have criticized the policy, as more 
Jamaicans are caught trying to smuggle cocaine into the country or overstay 
their temporary visas.

Mags White, spokeswoman for the British High Commission in Kingston, 
declined to comment, saying only that a change in visa policy regarding 
Jamaicans was under constant review.

Dyre said the Foreign Ministry would be holding more talks with U.K. 
diplomats to prevent the move.

More than 62,000 Jamaicans attempted to enter the U.K. in 2001, according 
to the British High Commission. An estimated 5% of visitors are turned away 
at British airports for various reasons, including suspicion that they are 
planning to overstay their visas, White said.

Though most Jamaicans enter Britain as tourists, an increasing number 
arrive with plans of living and working in the country illegally, White said.

"There is a growing percentage that are clearly seeking entry for reasons 
other than to have a vacation," she said.

Fueling calls in Britain for a tougher immigration policy has been a rise 
in gun violence blamed on Jamaican street gangs.

On Jan. 1, two teenage girls were gunned down outside an apartment complex 
in Birmingham, England. Police say the girls were innocent victims of 
feuding Jamaican gang members, called "yardies."

Paul Barker, a senior research fellow at the U.K.-based Institute of 
Community Studies, urged tougher action against the problem in an editorial 
published Tuesday in the British daily, Guardian.

"We aren't talking about...young men from families originating in a random 
selection of the Caribbean islands," Barker wrote. "It's about young men of 
Jamaican background, from an island with a lethal gun culture."

In response to the criticism, the Jamaican government has increased airport 
enforcement to catch smugglers, and is working more closely with U.K. 
authorities to track down Jamaican criminals living in Britain.
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