Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It has a tragic history of slavery, co- lonialism, occupation, misrule and natural disasters. Its people are scattered across the world. They leave any way they can to find better lives.
The Bahamas, for all its problems, is much wealthier than Haiti. We are a favorite destination to those escaping hardship. The 2010 census recorded 39,000 Haitians residing in this country – the largest group of non-Bahamians.
The only long-term solution to our illegal immigration problem is Haitian success. If Haiti’s circumstance changes, if it were to become wealthier and more resources were invested in its people, Haitians would stay home.
As long as Haiti stays in its current state, policing the migration flow is the best we can do.
The Bahamas has made a critical error over the years. It has allowed sprawling illegal Haitian communities across the country.
Shantytowns violate too many laws to mention, and they are dangers to public health. Poor sanitation practices create circumstances in which diseases flourish. Illegal electricity hook-ups cause fires.
Shantytowns are also financially unfair to nearby property owners. Property values decrease if one is nearby.
It is no secret that the issue of unregulated communities present myriads of complexities.
The health, social and other negative implications associated with unregulated communities in The Bahamas are intolerable and as such these enclaves must be urgently dealt with.
Successive administrations have cleared a few shantytowns before stopping. Bahamians are accustomed to small, unsustained interventions.
It is doable to clear all shantytowns in The Bahamas. Haitians who want to reside here should rent legal accommodations or purchase homes. Those who cannot afford these options should leave The Bahamas.
If we stop allowing shantytowns, fewer Haitians would come here illegally. They know we are slack. That’s part of their attraction to The Bahamas.
We already have the necessary laws to clear The Bahamas of all shantytowns. All that is needed is political will and follow through. We all know what needs to be done.