Wed | Apr 8, 2020

Long walk home - Deportee recalls trek from Norman Manley to Old Harbour on arrival from United States

Published:Sunday | February 16, 2020 | 12:36 AMCorey Robinson - Senior Staff Reporter
Damion Rose talks about his journey on being deported to Jamaica from the United States in 2002.
Damion Rose talks about his journey on being deported to Jamaica from the United States in 2002.
Damion Rose

Damion Rose laughed hard as his neighbours jeered him last Friday, the scene a stark contrast to the day he arrived home after walking 37 miles from the Norman Manley International Airport to Old Harbour in St Catherine, following his deportation from the United States in 2002.

Eighteen years later, Rose animatedly re-enacted his capture by police after jumping a New York subway turnstile, and laughed about the year he spent in confinement before being shipped back to Jamaica in jail garb, broke and dejected.

Funniest of all, however, was the blistering heat and back-breaking terrain Rose said he endured walking across three parishes as he tried to make his way to Effortville in Clarendon from the airport.

“When him come yah him foot swell big … a serious something, man!” exclaimed a woman as the group of residents burst into another bout of laughter as Rose, also called ‘Budds’, recalled his journey.

“You see when me reach outta Harbour View … ’cause dem (US authorities) couldn’t find my Tims (shoes) … not even me clothes; a prison clothes me come dung inna and one of the little Chinese black ballet dem,” he continued. “Is dem time deh me feel the sun!

“I walk and search for all of the grass spots dem ’cause it come in like the rubber shoes did a boil,” he said, sending the group into hilarity.

The discussion arose as residents considered last week’s deportation of 17 Jamaicans, all with criminal records, from the United Kingdom (UK), and the concerns raised about their ability to reintegrate in a society many of them hardly know.

The deportees, some of whom were last in Jamaica when they were as young as five years old, could now do with support from locals like Rose, who have spent years recovering from the upheaval in their lives, their steps and missteps on that path a lesson from which others can benefit.

Rose said he left Jamaica on a football scholarship as a teenager, but mishaps with relatives abroad led to that scholarship being cancelled. For the next decade, he stopped going to school and skipped from one construction site to the next or sold marijuana to make ends meet.

At his lowest point, he was living in a shelter, he said. It was there, while searching for a job, that he was recruited into robberies and break-ins, which he said became “sweeter” each time he did it.

Rose was never fingered in any of those crimes, however. He said after the subway station arrest he was ultimately deported for a string of drug-related charges he had been slapped with over the years.

He said he was sent home under security guard on a commercial flight, and, unlike inmates sent home from the UK last week, was processed and released by police at the airport.

Rose recalled that a taxi operator at the airport told him it would cost $4,000 to take him to May Pen, Clarendon, but that he was too ashamed to ask for a ride.

Underestimating the distance, he set off on a journey he would soon regret.

“When me reach Spanish Town in the night, me a walk same way,” he claimed. “I asked a one man on a bicycle how far Old Harbour deh and him seh, ‘Man! Is a walk that, you know’,” he said.

“When me reach inna Spanish Town, ’bout midnight … that time you have Klansman dem. The man dem buss up some breed a shot ’til all the street light dem dim. All night dem have the police dem busy,” he said, adding that he took refuge inside the Spanish Town Police Station where he fell asleep until morning.

At daybreak, he continued his journey westward, and, on reaching the outskirts of Old Harbour, he was rescued by a bus conductor who offered him a ride to May Pen.

“When me reach a May Pen, me didn’t even know that is May Pen me reach. Me still sit down in di buss. So I ask di conductor weh di clock (tower) deh and him show me,” Rose said, laughing.

Last Friday, others in the group recounted how they first saw Rose the day he arrived in the community.

“Is right in the shop me sit down and see him a walk pass. And me say, ‘How that look like Budds so’,” said one man in the group.

“At first me never believe, but we see seh a him,” he continued.

Soon, Rose was surrounded by other members of the community, including his elderly mother, who had no idea that he had been deported, let alone his ordeal the night before.

Since being deported, Rose said he has been trying his best to stay away from crime, but admitted that the temptations abound locally.

He is convinced that deportees are to blame for many of the crimes committed in Jamaica.

“Is nuff things we try (abroad). A lot of people feel like is every deportee go foreign go floss and gyal out dem money, but that’s not so. Nuff man try. Me try construction, me try moving work … but is not everybody is going to come back with something.”