Haitian League: Bahamas cannot sustain illegal Haitian migration
President of the League of Haitian Pastors Dr. Jean Paul Charles said yesterday The Bahamas does not have the capacity to receive the many Haitian migrants who enter the country illegally.
However, he asserted that despite recent sentiments expressed by the prime minister, he doesn’t believe the influx of illegal Haitian migrants is a threat to The Bahamas.
He said while those who make the journey are just “looking for something to eat”, more needs to be done to stop the flow of illegal migration into The Bahamas, in part, to prevent people from embarking on such a dangerous journey.
Charles’ comments follow an uptick in illegal Haitian migration and comments from Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, who told The Tribune on Sunday, “We continue to deal very aggressively with this matter because it can be a threat not only to our economy, but it can be a threat also to our national security.”
Over 300 Haitian migrants attempting to enter The Bahamas illegally have been apprehended over the past week, with almost 200 of them captured in the first five days of this year.
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian, Charles said, “I think with the prime minister, I can say in some state, he is right because he has to protect the Bahamian people.
“Myself, as a foreigner, who come here in this country, we cannot dictate to the Bahamian government what to do.”
Pressed on his thoughts on the prime minister’s comment, Charles continued, “I don’t think it is a threat as these people don’t come with, I don’t know what they come with but, they don’t come with guns.
“I don’t think it’s a threat but at the same time those people over 15 days at sea, we have to see it for the [strain on the] healthcare system… Maybe there’s something to do between the two governments to see how we can stop that, that has to stop.
“Every other day it cannot be like that.
“The Bahamas has no capacity to receive all those Haitians and 99 percent of the Haitians coming to The Bahamas they didn’t intend for The Bahamas…
“I can appeal to each and every Bahamian to see how they can get get closer to Haiti, see what we can do…There are things you get from people in South America, in Haiti you can get it right there. If you get it from Haiti, those people they would want to stay home and prepare their field and then they will get some money in return and I think everybody will stay home.”
Charles said the league will not condemn those migrants because they are just “looking for something to eat”.
“We are in contact with [people] mostly in some regions in the northwest side of Haiti,” he added.
“That’s where 80 to 90 percent of the migrants come from, in the Port-de-Paix side in the northwest.
“My church [is] in contact with two station regions in Port-de-Paix to tell them what the situation is in The Bahamas. To tell them the immigration policy, to what the boat captain might tell them otherwise, that in Nassau they hire people. But we tell them in the Haitian Pastors League, this is the situation.
“Not even that, even when the defense force would catch a boat, we also send that to them in Haiti for them to see the reality and not to risk their life just to try to get a better life. But that’s as far as we can go.”
When asked what the league does when Haitian migrants manage to enter Bahamian communities illegally, Charles said, “When they come, they have to have somebody ready to harbor them. In some cases they go to the bush or wherever else but since the immigration policy [states] if they catch someone illegal in your home, you also get in trouble and everybody knows that.
“…And then even as a pastor, sometimes [people] might say, ‘Why would you receive them at the church?’
“We are the church, church is for everybody.
“All we can do is we help who we can help but this is not our job to ask them if they are legal or illegal, we just help out with what we can do. That’s immigration’s job. I think what they are doing now, they are doing a good job patrolling the sea to catch them before they land.”
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications