Authorities are hopeful that repatriations to Haiti will resume without the detention center bursting at the seams, but Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield admitted yesterday that there is no timeline for sending Haitians back to their troubled homeland.
Bahamian forces, meanwhile, remained on high alert amid persistent fears that more Haitians will make the desperate attempt at fleeing to The Bahamas.
As a result of the political unrest and violence in Port-au-Prince, The Bahamian government announced on Saturday that it will temporarily cease all repatriations to the country.
Henfield said, “We are in a waiting and watching mode to see how things, and if things, can settle down so we can resume repatriations.
“In the interim, I can tell you that we are talking to some people on the ground in Haiti to see how quickly we can resume repatriation.
“The defense force and security services are on high alert, and, of course, the United States Coast Guard is intimately involved with the defense force and police officers of The Bahamas, through Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos, which is also involved in the fight of illegal migration from Haiti to The Bahamas.
“We have also announced a detention center to be used in [Inagua] just in the interim in case we have too many to handle here in the detention center in Nassau.”
On the weekend, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced the temporary closure of The Bahamas Embassy in Port-au-Prince and the recall of all diplomatic and consular staff.
The ministry said it was undergoing consultations regarding the matter, but noted that no consular services will be available in Haiti until the embassy reopens, “once the situation stabilizes”.
Henfield said it is difficult to know when the unrest will begin to settle down, but that some reports are suggesting that things in Haiti are “returning to normalcy”.
When asked whether CARICOM will be addressing the turmoil in Haiti, Henfield said, “Foreign ministers in CARICOM are talking about what we can do to help, and next week we meet in St. Kitts for the heads conference of CARICOM. And I will go ahead of the prime minister so we can have discussions as foreign ministers on what we can do to help alleviate this issue in Haiti.
“There has to be a discussion among CARICOM countries as Haiti is a member of CARICOM.”
However, Henfield noted that the issues in Haiti are a result of economic troubles, and said that this underlying cause must be addressed.
“We have to find a way, I believe, to encourage commerce in Haiti, which will lead to more Haitians wanting to stay home,” he said.
In recent days, protesters have stoned the Haitian president’s home, clashed with police in the streets, blocked roads and set cars and tires ablaze, among other things.
Reports indicate that several people have been killed and many others injured.
Violence in the country’s capital continued to surge as food, water and gas became scarce and schools, businesses and government offices remained closed.
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish