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The Haitian situation in Abaco

Dear Editor,

In Marsh Harbour, a mere 1,000-plus feet away from Abaco’s Department of Immigration is a community of illegal migrants – Haitians.  This community is a shantytown known as The Mud because it sits on a low-lying area that typically floods in heavy rains.

When I was eight years old I would go to the Marsh Harbour Softball Field, the pride and joy of Abaco sports, to watch the games and remember looking at paths off in the distance in the low lying area next to the field.  You had a few minutes walk to get to the entrance of a path that led to a few shanty huts.  There were at that time actually more houses in the area known as Pigeon Pea across the road on the other side.  Literally, a few dozen shanty houses littered the landscape and the year was 1980.

Fast forward 30 years: The Marsh Harbour Softball Field is no more and hundreds of shanty houses crowd the area with very little room left for vehicles to get through.  PVC pipes, illegally set up, run across roads and provide limited running water to houses that are put together with scrap wood and definitely not up to code (of any sort).  Electrical wires run from house to house, sometimes hung through trees, as the community shares a single power source (in most cases) a 500KW generator in a 40-foot container.  Open cesspits, merely a hole in the ground, are near to many homes.

You cannot begin to figure the numbers of people in The Mud alone.  Aerial photos only show roofs, however, many homes operate as duplexes and triplexes – it has been said to start to grasp the numbers you need to first count the padlocks on each house (each padlock is owned by a separate family grouping).

A walk through the area will reveal some surprising features, such as grocery stores, clothing stores, liquor stores, shops with sundries, and in the darker corners there are clubs that feature young girls and prostitutes.  Haitians are engaged in the trafficking of their own people for nefarious purposes.

Visit the public docks at 6 a.m. and you will see hundreds of Haitian men clambering aboard boats that ferry them away to work on the cays.  There are few businesses that you can walk into that do not have a Haitian employed in some capacity.

Within the last 10 years the government put in an alternate road as they built the new port for central Abaco.  The road pushed through revealed to the public another view of The Mud and the many houses there.  With this newer open access one would believe that the many illegal activities in this area could be curbed or stopped; however, the illegal building continues with no intervention.

The Department of Immigration, within sight of the community, understaffed, and bound to follow the orders of its superiors, has been put here to merely deal with work permits and the like.  Central government has tied their hands and made it known to the community here to leave them alone.

Local government gets their dander up every so often only to have their passions squashed by a government who is not interested in the enforcement of laws.  You may think this is a harsh or unfair judgment but I dare you to live here in Abaco, know that illegal immigrants land on your shores every few weeks (especially with the full moon) and in broad daylight they build homes on property that does not belong to them, with scrap wood etc.

Some may have not been obtained legally, without going through town planning, or passing inspection from Ministry of Works and Ministry of Health, obtaining electricity and water illegally and in some cases Cable TV.  They flood our schools with their children. (Some schools in Abaco have a 60/40 Haitian/Bahamian ratios – Treasure Cay Primary is almost 90 percent Haitian.)  They fill the seats at the local clinic.  They are the main cases dealt with by Social Services.  They bring prostitution, illegal drugs and firearms.  They create a health hazard where they live with open cesspits and lots of standing water for mosquito breeding and the spread of diseases.

 

– Concerned Abaco resident

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