U.S. non profits condemn Bahamas govt’s repatriation plans

Several U.S.-based non-profit organizations yesterday called for the Bahamian government to place a moratorium on the deportation of Haitians affected by Hurricane Dorian.

Marleine Bastien, executive director of Family Action Network Movement, an organization dedicated to the social, economic, financial and political empowerment of low to moderate-income families, said the government’s plans to repatriate undocumented Haitian storm victims are unconscionable.

“We believe that it is unconscionable for the Bahamian government to plan to deport people after they’ve gone through such a horrible, tragic crisis,” she said at a press conference in Florida yesterday.

She added, “As we speak, we have thousands and thousands of folks who are still unaccounted for. The people are traumatized. This is no time for The Bahamas government to deport people. We understand that this is a country of laws and they make their own laws and can implement them the way they wish, but our position is now is not the time.”

According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), more than 400 people are still listed as missing a month after the storm.

Yesterday, Bastien said, “We also understand that they are targeting Haitian immigrants, and we know that as we speak Haiti is at a standstill. Haiti is going through one of the worst political crises in its history where nothing is moving. People are being killed. Massacres are being committed all over the country.

“…This is not the time to deport people to Haiti. This is not the time to target these immigrants who were promised…the Bahamian government promised not to do this.”

Immediately after the storm, the government had placed repatriations on hold.

But Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson said on Sunday that undocumented migrants in shelters will face deportation, noting that the facilities will not be used “to circumvent the law”.

Steve Forester of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti yesterday called for the U.S. government to discourage the proposed deportations.

He said the move brings into question whether it was the government’s plan all along.

“It is absolute insanity for Bahamian government authorities to consider and to threaten, as they are doing, to deport the helpless victims of Hurricane Dorian now in shelters, as Bahamian news sources are reporting, just weeks after they said that they would not do so,” he said.

“It leads you to believe, was this a bait and switch? In other words, did they always intend to deport these people?”

Jack Lieberman, of 350 South Florida, an organization for climate justice, said the move is an ironic one given the work the organization did to petition for Bahamian hurricane victims to be allowed status in the United States.

“It’s ironic that little over a month ago, 350 lended our name to a statement that was issued right here…asking for the U.S. to grant TPS (temporary protected status) to Bahamian refugees, which of course would have included Haitians that were living in The Bahamas,” he said.

“We were proud and very happy to call out for justice for our Bahamian brothers and sisters. It leaves a bitter taste now today, and it’s the ultimate irony that a month later we see the Bahamian government basically cloning the very policies, racist policies of the Trump administration, that we were condemning, using a catastrophe caused by climate change to victimize people, some of whom have lived in The Bahamas for years…and now the hurricane is being used as an excuse to victimize and deport them.”

Lieberman said he will contact the organization’s national and international offices to speak out and urge them to contact the government of The Bahamas.

“If we allow Haitians to be attacked, then we have no justification to protest when the American government victimizes Bahamians who want justice here following the hurricane,” he said.

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Rachel Scott

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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