Acting Prime Minister Peter Turnquest yesterday advised Bahamians to avoid “vitriol” and to allow the government to do its job as it relates to immigration.
He was responding to a demonstration held on Saturday in front of the Kendal G. L. Isaacs Gymnasium, which is being used to house victims of Hurricane Dorian.
During the demonstration, the group called on the government to repatriate Haitians in the shelter – but it is unclear whether the people being housed there are undocumented migrants.
Yesterday, Turnquest told reporters, “So, I want to say to Bahamians that there is no need for the level of vitriol or prejudice that some may be putting. We do understand the frustration but allow the government to do its job.
“You can be assured that the government of The Bahamas is resolute in its commitment to follow the laws of The Bahamas as it relates to immigration.”
He added, “It’s not about prosecution. It’s not about any kind of prejudice or inhumane action. It is about enforcing the laws of The Bahamas.
“Anybody who is here legally via an active work permit, permanent residency or naturalization has a right to all of the protection and benefit that the state affords its citizens and residents.
“If you don’t fall in that category, then obviously we would expect you to do the honorable thing.”
Dorian – the strongest storm on record to hit The Bahamas – ravaged communities on Abaco and Grand Bahama in early September.
The storm left thousands displaced, hundreds missing and at least 67 dead.
As of two weeks ago, 777 storm victims were still living in hurricane shelters.
During the demonstration over the weekend, Operation Sovereign Bahamas Director Adrian Francis called on the government to provide the public with its plan for the future of the non-Bahamian storm victims in the shelters, especially those in the gymnasium.
“The gym is not a hotel,” he said.
Yesterday, Turnquest noted that the gym and other shelters were not meant for the long-term stay of storm victims.
“And so, we do anticipate and pray that those persons will make every effort to leave the shelter as soon as possible,” he said.
“It helps us in terms of the resources we are spending to maintain those facilities and to house the people in the comfort that we’d been able to. It helps us in reintegrating people back into the communities that they would’ve come out, to help rebuild those communities.
“And it helps us to manage the expectation of those as well as the international community in the treatment and the housing and the long-term care of these individuals.”
The government has deported more than 200 Haitians since October 19, according to Giuseppe Loprete, the chief of the International Organization for Migration’s mission in Haiti.
Last week, Loprete expressed concern with the deportations in the wake of Dorian, noting that some of the deportees are “certainly traumatized” and were at risk of stigmatization.
He told The Nassau Guardian that most of the deportees were from areas affected by the hurricane.