As the small Caribbean country of Dominica prepares to rebuild after being devastated by Hurricane Maria last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday pledged to accept students and other Dominicans with families in The Bahamas.
Minnis made the revelation following a meeting with Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit at Jet Aviation.
“They are a part of our society,” Minnis said.
“Therefore, it is essential for us to do whatever we can to assist in their rebuilding efforts.
“There would have been a lot of children that would have been displaced, and therefore we are opening our school system to accommodate them.
“Our immigration minister would deal with that matter so that they can be placed within our school system.
“Of course, I make a plea to Bahamians, especially with Dominica roots, and Bahamians in general, to assist to accommodate them, even [in] our private schools.
“I’m sure we have a lot of Bahamians out there who would assist in accommodating these individuals both financially and otherwise. After all, we are a loving, caring nation and this is our time to display and show that.
“Then there are a lot of Dominicans here who would also have families there, and therefore we would accommodate those individuals also. They would contact their families to come to The Bahamas, and we would make it happen.”
Skerrit landed on New Providence shortly after 10 a.m. yesterday. He was in transit to Dominica.
On Saturday, he delivered a speech before the United Nations General Assembly on climate change and the state of his country.
“I want to thank the government of The Bahamas for offering to host and facilitate the schoolchildren, especially students, to be able to come here and to be housed by families,” he told The Nassau Guardian.
“This will certainly help a number of families in my country.”
Skerrit said he has asked CARICOM to help coordinate this exchange program, as many other countries have made similar offers.
“Once we have the list of schoolchildren whose parents will allow them to leave we will certainly pass this on,” he said.
Minnis said his goal is to have the students arrive “as soon as possible”.
“The minister of immigration (Brent Symonette) is here, and certainly he has been through this before,” Minnis said.
“I spoke to him this morning and I called him and said that we will be doing this, and he said, ‘Prime Minister, I’ve already started’.”
Skerrit also confirmed that the four Bahamians living in Dominica are safe.
“They are fine,” he said, noting that three of them are university students.
“The area where the university is did not get any major impact.
“So they are fine. My view about this is once you are alive, you are fine.
“We will build back the homes and build back the schools and try to resume our lives and get things back to normal as soon as possible.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that “all Bahamians who wished to leave Dominica have now successfully departed”.
Hurricane Maria lashed Dominica last week as a Category 5 hurricane, ripping off roofs, severing telecommunications and devastating the small island, killing 15 people at last report.
“The situation is still grave and still precarious,” Skerrit said.
“We have to settle people who are homeless.
“Our preoccupation now is to get as much food supply and water to every household in Dominica. We will be pushing this.
“We are getting additional helicopter services because many of the communities are inaccessible by road.
“Some also have to be accessed by fishing boats. So we are using all means to take supplies to the people and to ensure that they are properly nourished and hydrated.”
Skerrit said no one on the island was left untouched by the storm.
“The fact is the hurricane did not spare anybody,” he said.
“Everybody was impacted.”
Dominica has a long road to recovery, the prime minister added.
“Certainly over 100 percent of our GDP has been washed away, blown away,” Skerrit said.
“It will take a long time. We have to build homes for people, infrastructure and schools. We have to build health clinics.
“It’s going to be a long [and] difficult road back to normalcy.
“Our hope and prayer is that the international community will reach out to us, because clearly we cannot rebuild our country alone.”
Education: College of The Bahamas, English