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Some Bahamians abroad upset over double standard on border closure

Renette Harding has been attempting to bring her elderly parents and 19-year-old son, who are stuck in Florida, back to The Bahamas since the border closed on March 27.

Yesterday, she wrote a letter to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis requesting permission to bring her family home on a private plane.

“I, Renette Harding, am seeking your permission for my 79-year-old parents, Delton and Coral Moree, as well as my 19-year-old son Ryan Price, who are citizens of The Bahamas, to return home,” the letter reads.

“They will be able to depart from Fort Lauderdale Executive Jet Center in Fort Lauderdale via private charter, Tropixair Limited…arriving at Jet Nassau. They are fully prepared to self-isolate or quarantine in their home as may be required.”

Asked how she would feel if her request is denied, Harding told The Nassau Guardian, “I would feel let down by my government and disappointed to learn that at a time like this being a Bahamian could have less merit than being a permanent resident.”

Yesterday, The Guardian revealed that two Americans, who are Bahamas permanent residents, were allowed to land on New Providence on Wednesday.

Unlike Bahamians abroad seeking to get home, they were not required to test for COVID-19 prior to coming to The Bahamas.

The prime minister has said those returning would have to quarantine at a facility guarded by Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers.

The permanent residents, who came on a private plane and brought in swabs for COVID-19 testing, according to the health minister, are allowed to quarantine at home.

During a press conference yesterday, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said an exception was made for them.

He said they did not show any symptoms of COVID-19 when they landed, but were tested for the virus yesterday.

The decision to allow the permanent residents to land and quarantine at home has enraged some Bahamians.

Glen Rolle, who has been stuck in Newark, New Jersey, since April 1, told The Guardian, “It’s very hurtful. At the end of the day, we aren’t residents of the U.S. We are residents of The Bahamas and to see that our government is allowing others to come in when we are stuck here…was very heartbreaking.”

Rolle added, “It’s not right. It’s just epically and morally wrong because if anybody should have more leniency it should be us as Bahamians because that is our land.”

Rolle said Bahamians are being done “a great unjust”.

He said it will be difficult for him and other Bahamians to get COVID-19 testing in the United States.

“It’s not possible when they are turning away thousands of Americans themselves from being tested every day,” he said.

“How do you expect for us, as visitors, to go on their lines and try to get their tests when they [are] turning away their own American people? You have to produce state IDs to get tested and we don’t have that stuff.”

Terrance Wilkinson, who is in Miami, Florida, said the government’s decision to allow the permanent residents to enter The Bahamas “feels like a slap in the face because all this time they were saying that there was no way they could’ve let us in”.

“I was agreeing with what they were doing this whole time,” Wilkinson told The Guardian.

“But for them to just simply bend the rules for who they want to, that really had me feeling abandoned.”

Jonniece Saunders, who is in Portland, Oregon, with her two-year-old daughter, described the incident as “irritating”.

“When the Americans got stuck on the cruise ship on the seas, they called for Trump,” she said.

“[They were] like, ‘Trump, you need to bring us home. We need to get home.’ And he surely did [send] for them and bring them home.

“So, I don’t understand how was it that we [are] stuck here and we have to wait and there’s nothing that is being done. We are born and raised Bahamian citizens.

“So, I don’t understand how is it that the Americans get to enter the country and we have to get quarantined and get tested. I don’t understand that.”

More than 400 Bahamians, who are stuck in the United States, are trying to return to The Bahamas, according to Bahamas Consul General in Miami Linda Treco-Mackey.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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