Facts and Figures
Population (2020)
3 million
Net Migration Rate (2021)
-2 migrants/ 1,000 population
Remittances (2021)
USD 3.6 billion
Women as a Percentage of Immigrants (2020)

Like its Caribbean counterparts, Jamaica continues to face migration-related challenges. Given its economic reliance on tourism, the Government of Jamaica remains highly committed to combating trafficking, curtailing smuggling operations (many of which affect third-country nationals) and addressing issues related to the free movement of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals, particularly in terms of employment and health services.

Migration Issues

Trafficking. Many of Jamaica's migration-related challenges are due to the growth of organized crime networks that have set up sophisticated human smuggling and trafficking operations.

"Brain Drain". Jamaica is increasingly troubled by the emigration of a significant percentage of its highly trained and skilled professionals. Over the past several decades, close to a million Jamaicans have emigrated to the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada. Recent approximations indicate that over 80 per cent of Jamaicans with tertiary level education and living outside of Jamaica were trained in Jamaica (Source). In fact, it is often said that as many Jamaicans live abroad as those who remain on the island (Source). This phenomenon has created what can be simplistically described as a "brain drain". The effects of this have been both economic and social. While it is difficult to estimate the exact economic cost of this "brain drain", it has been noted that the loss of skills has serious implications for the country's productive sector and its education policy.

"Barrel Children". Another noted effect of Jamaican emigration is the phenomenon of “barrel children”. The term, “barrel children” is accepted throughout the Caribbean in reference to children whose parents migrate leaving them in the care of siblings, relatives or friends, and who are provided for through barrels sent with non perishable items (food, clothing) and through remittances sent home regularly. According to the Bank of Jamaica, by the end of 2008, remittances reached approximately USD 2.025 Billion, accounting for nearly 20 per cent of the country's GDP (Source). Recent studies have also shown that, despite the inflow of foreign capital and the presence of relatives, “barrel children” in Jamaica are having a harder time coping without their parents, and often have suicidal thoughts. It has been found that three in every ten Jamaican households had children whose parents had migrated to North America or the United Kingdom, often in search of economic opportunities. Migration has since been labeled as the single strongest factor that contributes to the breakdown of the contemporary Jamaican family, contributing to poor academic performance and delinquent behaviour. Studies have also revealed that these children are at risk for sexual abuse and prostitution. (Source)

Deportees. The number of Jamaicans sent home after being incarcerated in the UK is alarming. Statistics from the Ministry of National Security estimate that over 1,300 Jamaicans were deported from the UK in 2006. This has raised growing concern about the reintegration of these Jamaicans and their susceptibility to becoming involved in gang and criminal activity. A recent survey conducted by the Ministry of National Security and the Planning Institute of Jamaica shows that 53 per cent of deportees reported that they had been involved in criminal activities since their arrival in Jamaica. Various Ministries, including the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Social Security and Labour have been making efforts to reintegrate the deportees so that they can make productive contributions to Jamaican society.

Border Security. A key area of Jamaica's national security is the proper management of the country's borders. As a small island developing (SID) Jamaica's borders are extremely vulnerable and have been subject to infiltration from various criminal networks who use the country's points of entry and exit as a source transit and destination point, for the transportation and receipt of illegal drugs, guns, ammunition and irregular migrants (forced and voluntary). Despite efforts made by the Jamaican government in 2007, in preparation for the Cricket World Cup to update the country's entry and exit procedures, there still exist lacunae that impair the country's border security.

Voluntary Returns. In keeping with IOM's assistance programme, IOM Kingston offers reintegration assistance for asylum seekers and irregular migrants who want to return permanently to Jamaica. This assistance usually takes the form of financial investments in vocational training, educational support, medical assistance, accommodation assistance or assistance in setting up a small business. This essentially puts the returnees in a position to support themselves financially, thereby effectively reducing the need to migrate again in pursuit of financial security.


    Contact information

    International Organization for Migration (IOM)
    25 Dominica Dr.
    The Towers, 6th floor
    Kingston 5

    Tel:    +876 968 05 69
    Fax:    +876 920 42 61
    Email:    iomkingston@iom.int