The Bahamas should find a way to “regularize” the status of Haitian migrants and “allow them to benefit from decent living and working conditions” following Hurricane Dorian, a former official for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
Dr. Jeff Crisp, who headed UNHCR’s Policy Development and Evaluation Service, told The Nassau Guardian, “Haiti remains in a very fragile state, both politically and economically, and a sudden influx of deportees from The Bahamas would further threaten the country’s stability.
“Rather than setting a dangerous precedent by summarily deporting the Haitians, The Bahamas should find a way to regularize their status and allow them to benefit from decent living and working conditions.”
In recent weeks, the government has faced backlash after announcing its intention to enforce immigration laws and deport undocumented migrants, even those impacted by Dorian.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the government announced that the repatriation of storm victims, who are undocumented migrants, was on hold.
Speaking about the government’s stance on immigration following the storm, Crisp said, “[D]eporting the Haitians would cause them considerable hardship and disruption, especially those whose children were born in The Bahamas but who have no right to citizenship there.”
He noted that all countries have a right to control the arrival and presence of foreign nations in their borders.
However, there are “some special factors” that have to be taken into consideration as it relates to the Haitian situation in The Bahamas, according to Crisp.
“While they may be undocumented, Haitians have contributed to the development of the Bahamian economy by providing the country with a cheap source of labor,” he said.
On October 11, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) urged The Bahamas to end deportations to Haiti for now, amid concerns over the government’s immigration policy and the treatment of undocumented Haitian migrants after Dorian.
It claimed Haitians impacted by the hurricane are panicking “and reports are emerging of people leaving temporary shelters for fear of arrest, and of people failing to avail themselves of necessary humanitarian services or going into hiding”.
The government, however, said it has had no such reports.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has maintained an unwavering stance on immigration in the weeks following Dorian – the worst storm in Bahamian history.
Speaking in Parliament, Minnis recently sent a notice to “all those who are illegal” that they “can leave voluntarily or they will be forced to leave”.
The prime minister also warned companies that hire undocumented workers that they will be “disciplined severely”.
But he said the government’s immigration policy will be carried out humanely.