Courting death in search of a better life

Like many other pressing issues that affect this country, we have time and again written of the state of turmoil in the Republic of Haiti and the ramifications for The Bahamas.

On Sunday morning, a group of 45 Haitian migrants, aided, according to police, by two Bahamian men, left New Providence on a two-engine vessel under the cover of darkness headed ultimately to the United States in search of a better life.

At least 17 of them, including a child, found death a few miles from shore.

Their bodies were recovered by Bahamian authorities.

The ocean will likely serve as the grave for as many as three more migrants believed missing.

Twenty-five people, including the two Bahamians, were rescued.

Another Bahamian has been arrested under suspicion of participating in the illegal smuggling operation.

We grieve such tragic loss of life and condemn those who facilitated it.

Notwithstanding alleged Bahamian involvement in the illegal smuggling operation, Haitian migrants continue to risk their lives, and lose them, because of the state of Haiti, with whom we have shared ties for generations.

With its proximity to Haiti, our country has long felt the effects of what has transpired in Haiti, with frequent trade and travel being common.

In fact, many scholars consider the Haitian revolutionary war, in then-Saint-Domingue, and the fear it instilled in Loyalist slave owners not too long after having fled America, to be the catalyst through which our society, along with others in the region, was carved out along racial lines.

Many thousands of Bahamians are the direct descendants of Haitian migrants who fled poverty and violence over the past five decades.

And there are untold thousands who, because of our antiquated laws, hold no legal status in our country as they wait for an immigration system often operating at a glacial pace to give them what they should have received at birth, so dysfunctional our attempts to fix these issues have been.

What is clear is that as long as Haiti teeters on the edge of governmental collapse and financial deprivation, we will certainly continue to see Haitians migrate by legal and illegal means to The Bahamas.

When Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was murdered in July of last year, it rocked Haiti to its core.

Haiti was met with more tragedy when a massive earthquake hit the nation in mid-August of last year.

To demonstrate how broken Haiti is, it has yet to install a new president and the investigation into Moïse’s death has stalled with no one as yet charged in their courts.

Meantime, violent armed gangs kept barely at bay while the slain president was alive, have seized control of many neighborhoods around the capital of Port-au-Prince, raping, killing, pillaging and beheading with apparent impunity as they vie with the government for control.

What is happening in much of Haiti is obscene and there appears to be no low that is actually rock bottom for the country.

We empathize with our Haitian brothers and sisters, however, The Bahamas is neither resourced enough nor has the influence to singlehandedly change what is happening in Haiti.

It is for the world’s superpowers, some of whom have meddled relentlessly in the affairs of Haiti for over two centuries, to remedy.

They appear to have all but abandoned any effort to address the root of the problem apart from rhetoric.

But we in The Bahamas can do our part.

We must aggressively target human smuggling and human trafficking operations run in part by unscrupulous Bahamian criminals with no respect for the lives of the people on whom they put so cheap a price.

The Caribbean Community of nations must continue to band together and urge the world to do more for Haiti.

And those of Haitian descent in The Bahamas must urge with all seriousness that their loved ones not take such risks on these illegal voyages.

There seems to be little sense in escaping desperation and death, only to court it fleeing farther away.

Things are not going to get better in Haiti any time soon.

Thus, The Bahamas will continue to have to adapt and do what we can to ensure that we have sensible, controlled, meaningful and empathetic immigration policy in the realization that Haiti itself does not appear able to reverse course.

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