Amid criticism from international organizations, Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson said yesterday that it is not inhumane to deport undocumented migrants who were affected by Hurricane Dorian to Haiti.
While he could not confirm whether there have been any deportations since the storm, Johnson said rumors of mass deportations are false.
“The prime minister has sat with the [International Organization for Migration] IOM,” he said.
“We have had connections with the United Nations, and we have identified and they agree in terms of us being a sovereign country being governed by the rule of law, equality before the law and how we have been obligated to enforce our laws.”
“Persons who are receiving social assistance, you have to allow them to do that, and that is why we had a certain stance with the shelters.”
He added, “There are flights flying in and out of the Republic of Haiti. Persons have made suggestions, but at the end of the day, we must do what is in the best interest of The Bahamas while still protecting the dignity of the human person. We have tried our best to do that.
“Ask anybody if they have seen any large or mass deportation. I don’t know where they are getting these things from.”
Hurricane Dorian ripped through Abaco and Grand Bahama last month, killing at least 61 people. Some 400 people are listed as missing.
Johnson’s comments came after a group of U.S. based nonprofit organizations condemned the government’s plans to deport undocumented Haitian migrants who survived the storm.
He said it has been disheartening to hear rumors of the abuse of migrants, which he assured are false.
“It concerns me when I hear persons saying that we are burning people in The Bahamas,” he said on Guardian Radio’s “The Revolution” with Juan McCartney.
“Nothing could be further from the truth.”
He added, “To see someone saying that the…Seventh-day Adventist Church was abusing people was totally unreasonable.”
Johnson added, “Anybody who has suffered a wrong in The Bahamas, they have a right to come to the Immigration Department or go to the police.”
While he acknowledged that work permits will likely have to be given out for skilled laborers to help rebuild Grand Bahama and Abaco, the minister warned Bahamians who harbor migrants that they will be “dealt with”.
“There are some Bahamians who will have to be dealt with for harboring,” he said.
“We have some dishonest persons who enable what we do in this country. There are some Bahamians who are [justices] of the peace who know full well that the documents that they are authoring that they are not good. We are going to have to deal with them.”