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Remembering Haiti’s earthquake

By CHESTER ROBARDS

Guardian Staff Reporter

chester@nasguard.com

The suffering and misery that intensified in Haiti almost one year ago is persisting, as the after effects of one of the world’s most devastating earthquakes in recent history, which killed more than 220,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless, continues to spawn death and civil decay.

As the threat of cholera bore down on the country near the end of 2010 and its government attempted to regroup and reform, Haiti’s fractured society encountered greater difficulties.

The Haitian people in November and December clashed with their local law enforcement, UN peacekeepers and each other in the midst of elections, even as thousands were dying of the deadly cholera outbreak.

The January 7.0-magnitude temblor that destroyed even the country’s Presidential Palace did not leave The Bahamas unaffected either.

In the hours following the earthquake a tsunami warning was issued for The Bahamas, but was canceled just as quickly. And in the days following, this country, inextricably linked to Haiti through a history of illegal migration by Haitian nationals, was called to action.

The government, in a show of amnesty, decided to release all Haitian detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre and grant them temporary status.

The move was met by harsh criticism in some circles and created confusion over the government’s immigration policy.

On the steps of the Churchill Building, after a group of illegal Haitian migrants was captured in the southern Bahamas, the confusion seemed to worsen after Minister ofImmigration Brent Symonette and Minister of State for Immigration Branville McCartney were asked by The Nassau Guardian what the fate of those migrants would be.

“We will make a decision on a case by case basis,”Symonette said.”More than likely they will be released.”

Minutes after Symonette made his statement, McCartney-who was not yet aware of what the senior minister had told reporters said he planned to stick to a policy put in place by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham the week before.

“We’re going to have them placed before the courts and they have a choice either plead guilty or not guilty. If they’re guilty, they’ll either pay a fine or they’ll be detained,”said McCartney.

Ingraham had made it clear that any new illegal immigrants would be detained and McCartney admitted that, at the time of his statement and Symonette’s statement to reporters, the government had not yet had discussions over the fate of the group of immigrants.

Following the earthquake, civic groups and businesses in The Bahamas sent aid to the Haitian people.

Days after the US held a national telethon to raise money for Haiti, which reportedly made more than$9 million, The Bahamas did the same, collecting more than$200,000.

While people around the world poured their hearts out to Haiti, The Bahamas sought to help those here locate relatives in their home country.

The Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)reduced the rates on calls to Haiti and some aid groups took Haitian-Bahamians back home to search for missing relatives.

The Haiti earthquake was cited in an Associated Press article as part of a consortium of deadly natural disasters that made 2010 theyear of most disasters, that claimed more than 250,000 lives.

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