Immigration dept. repatriates 115 Haitian migrants
The Bahamas Department of Immigration repatriated 115 Haitian migrants to Port-au-Prince, Haiti yesterday afternoon, including 86 people who came aboard a sloop eight days ago, according to a press release issued by the department yesterday.
The other 29 migrants were being housed at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre after being discovered without status by immigration officials.
Yesterday 76 men, 31 women and eight children, including a one-month-old baby who came on the sloop with his mother last week, were flown to Haiti aboard a Bahamasair jet.
Director of Immigration Jack Thompson told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that the baby was given the OK to be flown back home with his mother. The mother and baby were treated by emergency medical services personnel on the scene of the sloop landing for possible dehydration when they arrived in The Bahamas.
Thompson said the Department of Immigration puts a priority on clearing women and children out of the detention center as soon as they can. He added that the group that was repatriated yesterday would have been sent back home sooner had Tropical Storm Emily not passed through Haiti last week. The department’s release also revealed that yesterday’s repatriation was the first for the government’s 2011/2012 budget year, in which it was allotted $1 million for repatriation exercises.
Thompson said a repatriation exercise in which a Bahamasair jet is used could cost the department as much as $26,000 per flight. He added that other international repatriations can sometimes cost the department more than $6,000 per person.
The department exhausted all of its repatriation funds during the last fiscal year, according to Thompson.
In the first 49 days of 2011 the immigration department repatriated almost five hundred Haitian nationals after conducting several apprehension exercises and road blocks.
In June the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) urged countries with high Haitian refugee populations like The Bahamas to halt repatriations until the situation in Haiti improves.
A UNHCR release insisted that “precarious conditions continue to persist” in Haiti since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated its capital city in 2010.
“UNHCR and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) are renewing their appeal to governments to suspend, on humanitarian grounds, all involuntary returns to Haiti,” the release said.
“Despite the recent elections and ongoing reconstruction efforts, Haiti, weakened by the earthquake, cannot yet ensure adequate protection or care, especially for some vulnerable groups in case of return, such as unaccompanied minors, disabled persons, people with health problems, victims of trafficking or of sexual abuse.”
However, Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette said in June that The Bahamas has always recognized those situations in Haiti that might force the government to suspend the repatriations of illegal Haitian migrants, and that it would “monitor the situation in Haiti and until such time that it is necessary to cease and/or restart” repatriations.