An Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) report released yesterday criticized the Bahamas government for what it termed a lack of “durable solutions” for those displaced by Hurricane Dorian.
In its report, titled “Displacement in Paradise: Hurricane Dorian Slams The Bahamas”, the IDMC highlighted the uncertainty faced by Dorian evacuees who may be preparing to return home.
“Following previous hurricanes, the Bahamian government took significant steps to ensure that communities were rebuilt to higher standards of disaster preparedness,” the report read.
“The scale of destruction to both private and public infrastructure in Abaco and Grand Bahama following Hurricane Dorian, however, has led to a greater focus on displacement and repatriation than on durable solutions and adaptation.
“The IASC (Inter-Agency Standing Committee) framework on durable solutions for internally displaced persons sets eight benchmarks for durable solutions, mainly: safety and security; adequate standard of living; access to livelihoods; restoration of housing, land and property; access to documentation; family reunification; participation in public affairs; and access to effective remedies and justice.
“The government has focused on displacement and repatriation, but the achievement of durable solutions remains fragmented.
“Survivors with networks and economic means have quickly integrated into host communities in New Providence and other home islands such that they no longer need public assistance. Durable solutions on a broad scale, however, remain elusive.
“The lack of adequate housing and cases of lost documentation remain barriers to applying for jobs. Participation in decision-making and policy debates by displaced people, especially those from the LGBTQA+ and Haitian communities, is lacking and continues to be driven by the central government in Nassau.
“As the return of evacuees to Abaco and Grand Bahama increases, uncertainty exists for those who do not own land and for residents of informal settlements where land has been repurposed.”
The report states that “an estimated 9,840 people were displaced, at least 70 people died and losses and damages reached an estimated $2.5 billion”.
More than eight months after the monster Category 5 hurricane wreaked havoc on Grand Bahama and Abaco, however, hundreds remain displaced within the country or overseas.
Although the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March has resulted in the country’s borders being closed, many storm evacuees are seeking to return home.
The government started allowing Bahamian citizens and residents to return home, granted they provide proof of testing negative for COVID-19 and in some instances be quarantined at a government-designated facility.
But the IASC singled out the struggle that some members of the Haitian community on Abaco may face in attempting to return, noting that shantytowns some migrants once called home have now been cleared down and “re-appropriated”.
Its report referred to Dorian as “a catalyst for pre-existing internal tensions” between the Haitian community and the government, claiming that fear of deportation has led some migrants who survived Dorian to go into hiding.
“Meteorological statistics for Hurricane Dorian are precise, but mortality rates and the true impact of displacement may be underestimated because of a nine-year lapse since the last census,” the report read.
“There are also barriers to quantifying such impacts in informal settlements and among undocumented foreigners severely affected on Abaco.”