Wednesday, July 24, 2024

After drifting ashore on Ambergris Caye, Jamaicans eager to get home


After landing on the shores of Ambergris Caye on Thursday, July 19th, three Jamaican Nationals remain stranded in Belize and hope to return home soon. The trio, 50-year-old Noel Samuels, 23-year-old Romeo Lewis and 44-year-old Karma Beckford spent eight additional days in San Pedro Town, housed at the international boat terminal behind the Honourable Louis Sylvestre Sporting Complex. They are desperate to get temporary travel documents to return to Jamaica and say they have received little assistance from Immigration authorities or the Honorary Consulate of Jamaica in Belize. The San Pedro Sun was informed by the Jamaican Consulate on Thursday, July 26th, that getting the travel documents will take a few more days. However, after arriving in Belmopan, they would take care of the trio until they are able to travel.

Diana Locke, Director of Immigration, visited them on Thursday, July 26th, stating that she had been in contact with the person in charge of the Jamaican Consulate in Belmopan. She assured them that all efforts were being made for them to be relocated to a better place while travel documents are obtained. The Consulate told The San Pedro Sun via a phone call that they plan to transport the trio to Belmopan where they will be housed and looked after. However, when we spoke to the Jamaicans, they indicated that they had been well up to now, thanks to the generous help of a few persons from the island. They were disappointed with the local authorities, who they believe have been moving very slow on the matter. They said that sourcing for a plane ticket back to Jamaica is no problem, what they need is travel documents.

(l-r) Noel Samuels, 50, Karma Beckford 44, and Romeo Lewis, 23

Samuels, a commercial fisher man, explained that on June 23rd, he along with Beckford and Lewis went on a fishing trip. Sometime after, one of the two engines on their boat developed a fault and shut down. A few minutes later, the second engine gave in, and they began drifting to the open sea. They had their cell phones with them, but could not pick up any signal to try and call for help. According to Samuels, they only had rations for one day. After a few days, they encountered some rain, and with the sail of their boat managed to collect some water. Samuels said that they could see ships on the distance, but none ever came to their rescue. A couple of days later, they met the second and last rain before showing up on the north coast of Ambergris Caye. Samuels says that after several days without any signs of help coming and with no more rain, he told his companions that they were going to die and began telling them that he was happy to have them as friends. But the following day, they managed to see what looked like lights in the distance and perhaps land. This was the boost they needed to keep them alive and hopeful until they washed up in front of Grand Caribe Resort, north of San Pedro Town. Samuels states that he has no idea how they crossed the reef and moored flawlessly between two other boats on the shore on the morning of July 19th. “I am certain that there was a fourth man with us manning the boat,” he said, referring to the Almighty God.

He added that they were extremely weak and were transported to the Dr. Otto Rodriguez San Pedro Polyclinic II where they were given IV drips for dehydration. Later in the day, they were released, and to his disappointment, were moved to the police station, where they spent the night locked up in a cell for no reason. Samuels and his companions shared that it was a horrible experience and they feel offended to be treated as if they were criminals. He thanks one member of the Immigration office on the island for coming to rescue them and taking them to the international boat terminal where they spent several days. This immigration officer, along with other residents, provided them with meals and clothing. “We will forever be grateful to them,” said Samuels. When asked about their fishing boat, Samuels said that is the least of their worries at this point. He says that whenever they leave, they won’t be able to take it with them and if any potential buyer shows up, they can contact the local authorities.

The Jamaican trio is now in Belmopan, and although no definite time has been given as to when they will be able to get back to Jamaica, it is expected that they can travel by next week.

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