Can expatriates find peace, and safety in some Caribbean islands today?

BY R.D. Miller

The Long Voyage

For decades, whether Queen Victoria’s ship or planes, many citizens from the Caribbean have been leaving their communities for a better life or preparation for one they hope to come. After migration, the rebuild cities, operated factories and replaced men who had gone to war. Others worked in hospitals, homes, hotels, restaurants, kept the city’s street clean while few pursued higher education. These migrants arrived in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., and other parts of the world.

When they landed in these industrialized nations, it was not consistently a natural transformation. Many faced discrimination, tensions, and prejudice, and injustice. They held on roles that native people did not want, worked for below the minimum wage without job security or healthcare.

They withstood the unpredictable cold and rainy weather for years where the bus stop and late night subway public transit warmed up their cold hands feet heading to and from work. They lived in segregated government flats {home} sometimes worse than the ones they left in their native land. However, many saved from their wages later purchased small homes where the law and systematic barriers allowed.

Despite being inside these industrialized nations, they strolled through dangerous streets to and from work. Some of these streets had drug addicts, crimes like assaults, robberies, and murders they departed from. They observed high school dropouts, gangs, poverty, disparities, and inequality.

But because of a retirement dream back into the sun-set, they kept working thatone day back on that voyage where it started for good to enjoy the fruits of their labor. And their lives could have gone down many negative paths, but they stayed focused.

The months tuns in to a years and assembled a new migrant community. Some took on risks and invested in properties where the law allowed. These homes also made an extra room for the next set of immigrants that added to an eccentric community that maintains many aspects of their culture they left behind, with no fear of being targeted for their building wealth.

Photo by u0130brahim Hakku0131 Uu00e7man on

For the families who arrived later and became naturalized-citizens, or natural-born, this melting pot of family structure they created laid out a blueprint to protect them and build on their successes. Many family dinners, holidays, school events, or to assist on homework missed because they had to leave early to take care of their boss’s kids as servants, or a nurse where they were the only ones on the weekend and holiday schedule.

Several years later you understood the sacrifice, and respect their wishes. Everyone is aware of their roots, and never want to break that bond of their intent.

The complex decision

While you sit back and watch the news, and the stories, the rise of hate groups, such as KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other race-motivated events inciting violence, even local violence in your the city. The worrying rise in nationalism is driven by some who blame immigrants and other minority groups for their economic struggles and safety concerns according to the experts.

Each passing day, other geopolitical conflicts, an economic decline that has created refugees spreading across isolated borders with their families, fleeing to other countries to anyone who could take them. As the world seemed to shift on an inexplicable axis, you entertained their intent, “what if it is time to revisit the conversation of that voyage?”

Most times, the house is already built and waiting and these internal negotiations also provide you with an opportunity to reassess your career. There are unsettled report stories where some urging pensioners not to return. Today, decisions to repatriate everything now” has to be on the table, pros, and cons.

Many families today are thinking about what is best for Dad, Mom, Grandma, Grandpa, an uncle, Aunt, or a Cousin or a friend. They are set in their way because they have weathered the storm for decades, and have been tested. Maybe it is a cultural-thing, where hierarchy rule, my age, possessions, status gives me authority. “I am older, so I call the shots.”

Photo by Pixabay

Yes, you may now have to pay for child care, move because of home affordability, better jobs elsewhere, school district whether you support this return. And as studied have shown, Millennials move once every two years more than the previous generation (Baby Boomers) and Gen Xers moved about every four years, and about 34% of people live within 10 miles away from their childhood home reports.

Nevertheless, this essay is not intended to provide you with a guide, but when the silence is deafening, and these decisions are personal, and reality that cannot be ignored or spun. Certainly there will be another generation, perhaps a different one in the decades to come, because the reports have shown that this cycle will not end.

After all, over 500 thousand people still migrating to countries like the UK, U.S. Canada as long-term immigrants each year. There are others for work-study and asylum applications to some unauthorized.

Weighing the economic impact

Economic studies have shown retirement income, can last longer in the Caribbean region. They frequently create alternative jobs through domestic help. These employees often receive sometimes better salaries than regular local jobs.

Returning home may not restore many of the jobs lost through the closure of manufacturing business, but they keep local stores open with their daily expenses. They are your local (bikers) who will visit restaurants, buy all their meals, and that creates a multiplier effect.

Foreign affairs experts point out that although remittances play a key role, their disposable income also benefits local communities, retirees continue to spend even during an economic downturn from pension funds

Many of these industrialized government pension fund managers recognize the benefit of their return as they can free up the health care system and housing for the elderly. In many instances, due to economics, it is preferable to support repatriation with their pensions arriving monthly based on previous arrangement.

What is the trade-off from your concerns if it was time to cash in their savings and off to parts of these Caribbean shores? Sure, their wishes will be granted, and free vacation lodging for many even if they want to admit or not, and that also brings additional local spending to the industry, but you hope when the telephone rings, it is simply to check on the grand-kids left behind or to say hello, and in some case scheduled a flight for a doctor’s appointment.

The conversations

Most populated Caribbean islands have always been an attractive retirement stop in which they hope for a last safe and peaceful journey.

Today, if you have a loved one thinking about this trip whether for love or economic reasons, you are not alone in support or concerns when confronted with the decision. These decision are personal to each family. Many retirees already landed and enjoying life, others only wish is to be buried in their native land.

Though good vibes are happening on these shores, some of the children have been back, grandchildren love connecting to their heritage. You ran into a former church Deacon Brown who tells you of his plans to leave the shores, and move to an assisted living home in the UK abandoning everything there for his safety, and medical treatment.

Mr. Denton who lives next door to you with a medical condition for many years, helped you fixed your training bike wheels, checked on you throughout the years until your parents returned from an errand, later retired to the island and died suspiciously inside his home, and as always, his case is under investigation.

Many seniors’ patriotism never wavered on their native land left behind. And I wondered why she never returned to Jamaica. But when they talked about a church sister and a husband, including many others who went home and the stories similar [robbed and murdered].

“This man would not harm a fly and would have given them the shirt on his back had they asked him.” It makes you question your own plans. Though we never may recognize why many never return, some of us understand.

So, what do say to a family member or friend who is planning their retirement there.

For many decades, I made a long journey from the North to the South to see my favorite aunt. She went to England before Jamaica got the independence from British domination where she worked and studied for years. She subsequently chose the United States, where she lived for another 40 years until she passed at age 99, still alert, read her bible without reading glasses.

A reality that cannot be distorted..

Many Baby Boomers would like to return to their tropical paradise, but a vast number will not return because of fear of violence, changing demographics, and observing the significant risk to returning residents from robbery, fraud, extortion, exploitation, and the ultimate crime of murder and not just “cultural alienation.”

Although parts of this region shine bright on the outside, it has dark holes and there are consequences if potential residents bite too fast from the basket of fruits they once left intact.

Very often these stories of people killed months after their arrival, and sadly, the spin like they took nothing, so robbery wasn’t the motive while the victims family searches for an answer having to deal with 30-40 years of hard work and dreams gone in an instant. The fact is that, these victims possessions may not have been taken because they resisted. However, they were murdered, and that is the motive.

Unfortunately, these criminal (thugs) and gangs where law enforcement struggles to dismantle roams local streets like they are untouchable. They analyses the retirees’ movements, create chaos, and community fears while sending a notice to others in an extortion scheme only to revert to offering community protection for a price.

For many who amalgamated into their adapted land, culture and norms have not always been removed from their homeland, but the fear of being targeted like a friend who’s life ended from violence while on vacation, or other connection to a business owner, intellectual, robbed, raped, kidnapped or murdered. These memories are a constant reminder of why some stay away.

Call them “sell-out” for staying, and speaking out, but at least they can hear you from somewhere else where safety is not a constant reminder, such as asking what’s next for dinner.

Yes, crime is ubiquitous, but if, according to the Jamaican Observer, in 2017 alone, over 1,600 lives were lost, what is the probability that Aunt Suzie will appear in the next data-set. It is far from the relaxed and trouble-free atmosphere that often welcomes guests and returning residents outside the protected zone.

Sadly, some English-speaking countries of the Caribbean, like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, have at least 30 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants per year. These rates are six times higher than those of the United States and 15 to 30 times higher than those of most European countries, according to several data on crime.

In the Bahamas, Belize, El Salvador, Colombia, Guatemala, Guyana, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Panama, and US Virgin Island, local leaders cannot afford to lose sight of what experts assess as a troubling murder rate per 100,000 that is increasing.

The criminal homicide rate is among the highest in the hemisphere, with more than 350 expatriates killed or or personal items stolen, and many more left for security reasons. Those are the numbers that get very little attention.

Though many enjoyed their adopted countries, they are like turtles, or a salmon spawning, so another maturation begins for a new generation. However, once they returned, it seems many must fend for themselves without a comprehensive support system as they are often targeted.

Welcome home then what you earn is also mine?

According to one report, since early 2000, more than 200 British, American and Canadian ex-pats have been murdered in Jamaica. Many argued that lottery fraud scam used by violent gangs has expended to guns and other physical weapons. There is still a big problem where ex-pats are considered by criminals as easy targets.

Why should retirees come back?

On a previous Caribbean Life, a popular television program that highlights the best places for people seeking housing. However, the reality many families aware of the local ongoing political stalemate reported corruption, and where poverty, crime, and other social inequality that cannot be captured in a 30-minute episode.

These are a few of the stories I’ve decided to highlight, and there are many more.

While there are communities that try to provide stability and security, these (thugs) target their hard-earned money and assets as their own.

According to the Guardian, Gayle and Charlie Anderson, aged 71 and 74, retired to Jamaica and were stabbed to death in their “dream house” in Mount Pleasant, in the parish of Portland. Slowly, these disturbing stories are nauseating to the fabric of these communities. Now I doubt the local leadership can say how many people have died in 10 years of targeted murders, but I can go back and update them.

Gayle and Charlie Anderson Photograph: FCO/PAPhotograph: Foreign and Commonwealth Office/PA

The absurdity that they can take your rainy days’ dollars that you have worked hard and saved for decades in a heartbeat and little to no closure. Many families don’t know the answer to that mentality of thugs, and the country has to go back to the blueprint for governance if it can find the plan.

Melbourne Flake, who was 81, and 70-year-old Etta Flake were found dead in their Saint Thomas vacation home on Jan. 9. 2018. Their daughter, in a statement  said, “her father was only a few cabinets away from completing the house he built from the ground up.”

Melbourne Flake, who was 81, and 70-year-old Etta Flake

On August 15, 2017, another story of a family of returning residents, where a criminal stole their luggage, their car, and their goods after leaving the Norman Manley Airport, and left them on the side of the road. Fortunately, nobody died in this incident, but, as usual, an investigation is underway.

The death of Delroy Walker in May 2018 is another reminder of the danger that few people recognize and or others locally will admit. He was stabbed to death on his return to Jamaica to enjoy his retirement from Britain while giving back to the youths.

Photo credit: Steve Walker, whose brother Delroy Walker was murdered in Jamaica

He did not return to take your job, property, or stop your personal growth. Had they asked, he would have offered his guidance. He has championed the youths by giving back and using his skills and resources through his charitable organization. This untimely death robbed the youths of a shot of success, those who yearn for a sunbeam that is getting cloudier on these shores.

Delroy’s death further highlights concerns that reverberate for those looking in, and these reports stymie many charitable barrels of goods slated for the island to help others now under reconsideration or listed on eBay and Amazon, or held in a basement or storage center because of safety concerns.

Although his killers were caught, the criminal gang enterprises silently devastating these once-safe communities, and are a major threat to a normal life, and long term economic impact.

Karen Cleary, 44, returned from the U.K. and had been building her dream home in the country of her birth when she went missing on Sunday, November 25, 2018. They found her body buried in a shallow grave on her property in Boscobel, St Mary.

Karen Cleary, 44

December 2018, St Elizabeth, in south-central Jamaica, tests being done to confirm identity following allegations that it could be that of the missing returning resident, Barbara Findley.

Ten years earlier, our family horror story echoes of a cousin shot down in his driveway after leaving a local bank. He too was part of that journey, which lasted 45 years. And even though the authorities have resolved some of these cases, many of them still have that “investigative status”, which is simple, closed files.

Also, those communities that know these killers should not blame the local police if they have information and remain silent.

The US State Department warned that violent crime remains high in Trinidad and Tobago, and especially for expatriate residents and tourists involving violent robbery, kidnapping for ransom, assault, and rape. These returning residents worked long hours in sometimes poor weather, saved their money just to return to their native land to enjoy the sun, breeze, and a relaxed vibe or reap a small crop planted.

What is driving this behavior??

When youths have no hope or even lack the resources to chart a vision, crime becomes more attractive. Simply, we the poor vs. them over there (rich). I also believe that some suffer from serious mental issues, and the economic stagnation, created a wider gap between the haves and have-nots.

Social disadvantage, stratification, the lack of jobs that anchor permanent growing poverty and inequality have been transformed into a criminal mentality that sees itself as such alone. It created a devastating “crab in the bucket” mentality, where the bottom is constantly trying to pull the top down, and at the end of the day, everybody dies because nobody finally comes out.

Instead of tapping on the experiences and success of those returning citizens, in which many gives back to the community, and ask those elders to mentor to create a career path, start a business, these criminals view their success as their barriers, and rather see funerals, and no one wins or get ahead.

It seems once these retirees’ clear customs they are on their own. The difficulties some retirees face today are not price gouging, a tropical storm, occasional flooding, or unreliable utility service, or a few badly patched potholes on rural roads, but close friends who join them on these return voyages have left because of violence.

Who is responsible for their safety?

Though not everyone who visits parts of the Caribbean gets robbed and killed, there is an undercurrent of many disturbing stories. When one sense of safety is lost, often the person next beside you becomes your focus on a taxi, a bus, a restaurant or exiting a bank. Therefore, you missed out on the good people’s smile and warmth, the hills and valleys that are yearning for footprints, and a local business suffers.

Image source: Getty Images.

The elderly woman was robbed several times after leaving the local bank after they had collected their monthly fixed income, it is not a random act. Very often seniors are targeted with an internal tip-off when they complete their financial transactions, whether they take local transit visit a local grocery store or a doctor’s office. These errands are becoming more dangerous, each passing day.

Soon the young man who normally walks up and asks for a sale for his few items on the local street, his business suffers as family and friend now saying keep going until further out. Others say It would be nice as they have done in the past, rented vehicles on their own, and explored the country. Sadly, criminals have reduced that old sense of calm because of fear of being targeted, and it is not a good feeling.

While you’re reading this article, you can check the current data on expatriates killed or targeted in many of these communities and if these headlines are declining.

Despite a few welcome mats, the trash is under the rugs. And until they accept that they have a problem, and speak out loud and condemn these atrocities across all sides, there will more stories like these.

Often, when you highlight this serious problem, you will get back, and because nobody what their backyard looks bad. But I say that I am also half this tree and that I have fallen from its branch. Therefore, I would like to stop and refresh myself and make sure that the old log of the tree remains safe for other children to come and play.

Today many famous people from the region whether in academia, politics, or the arts who no longer call Jamaica home or the other high-crime areas. It is not from the paparazzi whether entertainment and others, who developed the knowledge and skills and want to give back.  There may be other reasons but I believe crimes and the fear of becoming a soft target is one.

The critique is squarely not what is wrong with returning residents learning the do’s and don’t as many minimize and deflect, and blame the victims. It is the failure of leaders and the difficulty of implementing harsher sentences and putting more resources into law enforcement and community support to disrupt crime and eliminate criminal gangs that are devastating families.

Regardless of political side, and leadership, criminals have placed many communities on a rapid decline. They have lost their moral compass of society. No one wants to live in a retired community targeted by criminals next door who are waiting for an opportunity to strike like a venomous snake.

There should be more attention and not only when it hits a headline that threatens their bottom line, then they have to rush because it looks bad. It is simply what is wrong with leadership unable to foresee these problems and develop a clear vision to deal with this public health issue.

Many residents only remain on this side of town due to the advanced stage of medical issues, including dementia, and counting their final days. Some are living in multi-million dollar houses they invested from their long voyage, now locked up with steel bars for protection like a prison with several locks to enter. One hopes an emergency exit is accessible in the event of a fire.

The offspring complexity:

Imagine how wonderful it feels to return and give back, especially to young people. But these communities and leadership must speak more openly condemning these crimes, and the high possibility dangers that may await families from criminals who may have a mental illness, addicted to illegal substances, lack hope, opportunity combined with barbaric ideology.

How do you get to the root cause of this cancer? It seems they overwhelm the authorities, but everyone must acknowledge this is a big problem, then you can implement strategies to minimize the symptoms, and ultimately get rid of the cause. Unfortunately, I’m afraid there’s a potential for multiple serial killers looking at their vulnerability ready to strike the next person’s insights.

And please stop the minimization, these are not random crimes.

I get it: The experience of immigrants are forever bind these beautiful shores, inheritances, root, culture, and pure love. And while it may not have an immediate impact on our daily functions, one always wants the best. But if well-managed islands-offering affordable options for individuals living on a fixed budget from Costa Rica Panama to Belize, and Nicaragua to Dominica, and may Cuba soon, with lower taxes, low crime, and cost of living, while others only pray on retirees to help balance their budget, where the next planes land or ships docks remain an open debate.

Retirement is more than purchasing a delightful home.

Advertising beautiful seaside, rustic, or remote living packages to discount on shipping containers into a gated community can be attractive. But once they land, a feeling of the lack of security makes people isolate themselves.

No one expects law enforcement to move into a returning residence home for his or her safety. Today, many are living in gated communities, but what about others’ safety on the hillside?

Photo by Lucas Guimaru00e3es

How can some of these service industry nations survive if only the safest return will be one in a casket to an ultimate resting place? The only attraction that may prove beneficial as it appears to the local community culture is the Chinese investments with free access to government officials on all political sides.

What is the point of having more keys to your home than windows with bars like a prison from fear.

The tourist protected zone alone cannot sustain the overall Caribbean economy, The ones who just want to plant their crops, enjoy the side of the hills, sit on the community school board from their experience brought back, is also important.

Should you sit this current atmosphere out

There should be more emphasis on protecting expatriates because their income is also investments. Ex-Pats do not dump, they bring goods and services, starts small businesses, that will not threaten local farmers and small businesses struggling to compete with imports.

Of course, these investments have improved the infrastructure. However, if young people leaving schools, the lack of employment opportunities, quick income from criminal activities becomes attractive.

Going home for retirement under a mango tree, they do not measure who has the best soundtrack or most likes on a Twitter account. It is access to excellent health care, safety, managing environmental issues, and an economic system that fosters mobility for everyone.

Each story is different, but uncertainties and safety concerns that have kept many people off these shores, it is time for a new shift in the thinking so the next generation that may aspire- to make the same journey as their parents will have fewer questions. More retirees will be coming, but you must have better headlines.

R.D.