Jamaica has accused David Cameron of inaccurately claiming to have signed a deal to repatriate about 300 of its citizens serving prison sentences in the UK, just weeks after he announced the supposed agreement on a trip to the Caribbean island.
The prime minister hailed the “important” step during a visit to Kingston in September, saying the UK would provide £25m from the foreign aid budget for a new prison in return for being able to send Jamaican inmates back to their homeland from 2020.
However, the Jamaican government disputes the existence of such an agreement, amid controversy over the idea of repatriation and concern that it will have to fund about 60% of the prison construction and all its running costs.
The Jamaican government has suffered a backlash after Cameron’s visit, including a protest about prisoner transfers outside parliament and a walkout by opposition politicians.
Speaking in the Jamaican parliament, Peter Bunting, the security minister, said: “Unfortunately, communications from the UK government, which has been carried in British and local media, may have left an impression in the public mind that Jamaica has signed a prisoner transfer agreement. This is not the case.
“The fact is, we have agreed to commence a process which may or may not result in a prisoner transfer. We have brought these inaccuracies to the attention of the British high commission locally and trust that it will be corrected.” He said the only document to have been signed is a non-binding memorandum of understanding to explore the possibility of prisoner transfer.
The plan would also need to be agreed by Jamaica’s parliament, which has previously declined to ratify a voluntary agreement announced by the former British prime minister Gordon Brown in 2007.
Bunting added: “There is no guarantee at this time that this administration will sign a prisoner transfer agreement with the UK. The government of Jamaica will only sign the prisoner transfer agreement after adequate public education and debate and the enactment of new legislation in the Jamaican parliament.”
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