JAMAICA | Public Outcry forces Gov’t to foot bill for Jamaican students fleeing Ukraine

JAMAICA | Public Outcry forces Gov’t to foot bill for Jamaican students fleeing Ukraine

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, February 27, 2022 - Following an outcry from the Jamaican public and a proposal by the Opposition PNP to take care of the welfare of Jamaican students trying to flee war torn Ukraine, the government of Jamaica has now changed its position and has decided to foot the bill for accommodation, food, and air travel for the students’ return to Jamaica from Ukraine.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith says all costs, including airfare to bring home students stranded in Ukraine are to be covered by the Jamaican Government.Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith says all costs, including airfare to bring home students stranded in Ukraine are to be covered by the Jamaican Government.Speaking at a media briefing, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, says that 23 Jamaican students are in Lviv, two hours away from Poland, where they will receive passage home amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

She stated that arrangements are being made for the students' accommodations while they are in Lviv. Johnson- Smith added that transportation arrangements are being finalised from Lviv to Poland.

The minister added that all costs, including airfare for the students are being covered by the Jamaican Government.

“The Government will underwrite the cost of subsistence in Lviv and in Poland as well as the transportation cost for the students from Lviv to Poland; and we will be underwriting the cost for air travel to Jamaica.” She said the Government of Jamaica will foot the bill for accommodation, food, and air travel for the students’ return to Jamaica from Ukraine.

That means the money raised by leaders of both the Jamaica Labour Party and the People’s National Party, PNP, will not be needed at this time to help with repatriating the students.

On February 12, Johnson Smith said that an offer of assistance was made for an airfare loan agreement, whereby the government would book and pay for the tickets for the students return to Jamaica. The students however, opted not to take up the government’s offer.

Since then,  PNP leader Mark Golding announced a US10-thousand dollar fund to assist in buying tickets and pay for train fare and other welfare to enable the students’ return to Jamaica. 

Shortly after the announcement from the PNP, it was revealed that Prime Minister Andrew Holness had raised US $11,500 dollars to also aid students seeking to leave the war-torn country.

Minister Johnson Smith, says the more than JM $3 million that have been raised to aid students stranded in the Ukraine could be used to fund their potential return to the country to complete school.  She said  the money from the prime minister has already been turned over to the foreign affairs ministry. She says she expects the money from the PNP to be turned over imminently.

In the meantime, Jamaican students in Ukraine seem to  have encountered a hurdle in trying to reach the Polish border and will have to continue the journey by foot as they attempt to reach safer ground.

In providing an update on Sunday, the Foreign Affairs Minister  pointed out that the Jamaican students are travelling alongside thousands of  Ukranians, mainly women and children. “As you would recall last night we were able to recall that 19 students had joined four students in Lviv where they were proceeding towards Poland. This morning I was very pleased earlier to be advised that they had been joined by another student - who joined them in time to leave on the bus this morning,” Johnson-Smith said.

She said in their determination to reach the  Polish border, they have exited the bus on which they were travelling, and are proceeding on foot. "It is a 20 kilometre journey - I’m asking for continued prayers for their safety as they proceed on this journey. We have also made arrangements for them to be met and accommodated on the other side” she added.

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