3 month internship with the National Organisation of Deported Migrants
My work with NODM was fairly mixed. I spent most of my time working with Oswald Dawkins, the General Secretary of the organisation. He answers the organisation’s phone, works in the office most days, and acts as the face of the organisation (as opposed to the staff dealing primarily with transportation and finances). We would regularly visit sister organisations, such as the homeless shelter and Salvation Army. We organised and ran a couple of workshops for deported persons looking for new skills, we organised a day where people could get their pictures taken for documentation purposes. Oswald encouraged me to phone people on the database and to inform them of my doctoral work and to ask for some more substantive feedback on resettlement in Jamaica. This information was useful for me, and Oswald appreciated my feedback and reflections. We spent much time debating the organisation, its goals, remit and limitations. I offered advice and we developed a stimulating working friendship. I offered my perspectives on the problems I encountered among the deported persons I met, and spoke about UK policy and the likely impacts for NODM of new legislative changes relating to immigration control and deportation. It is important to note that the organisation runs on a shoestring, and that this ‘reasoning’ – a very Jamaican word for debate and discussion – was important to Oswald and myself and offered the opportunity to think and talk strategy in an organisation that is stretched, and short on time.
I also visited other parishes outside of Kingston, met sister organisations in Montego Bay and travelled to meet some deportees who were in work (one in a coffee farm venture, others in the tourist sector).
I believe that the internship has added value to my experience as a doctoral student. In part, I have become familiar with Kingston and Jamaica, the planned site for some of my fieldwork. I have met and come to know deportees who I might include in my doctoral research, as well as the primary organisation working with deportees in Jamaica – NODM. I was on Jamaican television just a couple of weeks into my time, discussing David Cameron’s proposed prison plan. I offered a case study for a briefing paper presented to the Lords on the new Immigration Bill.
I feel like I have a good sense of deportation in Jamaica now, at least from the UK. This is all essential to my doctoral work. I have a sense of what happens on the ground, I have connections and links, and I have developed some sense of the limitations on the voluntary sector there.
From a knowledge exchange perspective, the internship really gave me a grounded sense for how deportation plays out in Jamaica. That is, I was able to ask questions about numbers deported, about problems people face – such as homelessness and destitution. I was able to meet deported persons in dire situations and those finding their feet in meaningful employment (although rare). I was able to learn from the inside about how NODM offers reception services to deported persons, how it follows up with deportees, how it is stretched (i.e. what it can do and what it would like to but cannot). I discussed policy in the UK and Jamaica with the organisation; I discussed historical shifts. This set of experiences was invaluable for me. I learnt about policies surrounding deportation, I learnt about how they play out and the problems people face, I met with many deportees and asked of their experiences. It could not have been more fitting for my doctoral project.
In terms of contributing toward the organisation’s goals, there is firstly the simple fact of being there and offering any assistance needed in an organisation that is stretched and often unable to offer extra services to deported persons. So I could help with workshops, with acquiring substantive feedback from deported persons. I could help write a proposal for funding, or deal with e-mails from solicitors and detention staff in the UK. That is, I was another set of hands on deck (when normally Oswald works alone), and someone open to helping where possible. So I was able to assist in the organisation’s broad goal surrounding resettlement. I also know that Oswald appreciated my perspective on things: my critical analysis, policy/legislation expertise and fresh set of eyes on Jamaica. We will certainly remain in touch over the next months and years, and I will continue to offer advice and to keep up on their work.
For example, I am going to work with the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants to come up with an advice document on out-of-country appeals, which NODM will give out to deported persons. That is, deportees are increasingly returning with a right of appeal to be exercised in Jamaica, but NODM does not know how to help them. However, I, with Oswald, stressed the urgency of this matter, and now I will be helping to provide NODM with some knowledge and perhaps a booklet on the legal process, perhaps with links to organisations and solicitors in the UK. This would not have been a NODM priority had I not been working with them, to give one example.