The Gleaner reported that the people with intention to walk a fine line between life and death also agree to sign waivers to absolve their government of any liabilities.
Most of the sojourners are described as “farmworkers” who want to make ends meet in two of the biggest economies in the world.
Colette Roberts Risden, Jamaica‘s permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, said the workers “were given a choice if they wanted to take up the offer at this time.”
Risden reportedly added, “It is an employment arrangement between the employer and the worker, and they have to get approval from the labour department in the United States in order to bring in foreign workers.”
She also expressed the Jamaican government’s hesitation to curb freedom of movement even in a pandemic.
“We don’t want to be in a position that we are preventing them from going and take up these opportunities of employment, but we outline to the worker the risk of going to work in those countries at this time. Some have decided to sit out this season, while others chose to go,” Risden explained.
The Gleaner also spoke to relatives of some of the itinerant workers.
The spouse of a man who reportedly left Jamaica for the United States at the end of March, told the newspaper, “He [her husband] is going for about 20 years now, and his boss treats him good. The farm work programme provides everything that we have; it is poor people bread and butter.”
While they recognize the risk involved in these times of COVID-19, relatives back home say fear of potentially losing a major source of income is more palpable than the coronavirus.
The issue has reportedly devolved into a matter for partisan politics with opposition spokesman on labor, Horace Dalley, describing the government’s permission as “an uncaring act”.
Jamaica has 59 confirmed cases of the coronavirus while the US, the destination of most of the workers, has more than 367,000 confirmed cases.