A new report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Haitians who were deported following Hurricane Dorian detailed incidents of rights violations and sexual abuse while still in The Bahamas.
“In October 2019, the Bahamian government expressed the wish to deport irregular Haitian migrants,” it read.
“From October 10 to date, 228 people (169 men and 59 women, including a girl and a boy) were repatriated to Port-au-Prince.
“According to the information collected, some of them have suffered violations of their rights (apprehended overnight without possibility to recover their documents, blood bag extracted without explanation, physical violence, reported sexual abuse, etc.).”
Responding to the claims of abuse, Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson said yesterday that international agencies should make sure their sources are credible.
“What we would say to those international agencies is if they have facts, provide them to us,” he said in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
“Provide them to the commissioner. Provide them to myself and we will have them looked into.”
Johnson added, “The Bahamas is a sovereign and democratic state, governed by the rule of law and international best practice.
“Foremost among those international best practices is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“Shortly after Hurricane Dorian, [l]aws were passed in The Bahamas to replace all lost documents, and we did that.
“We underscored the importance of respecting the dignity of the human person, and we did that.
“We also said that if anyone felt that they were mistreated or any public servant would have done something they ought not do, make a complaint.”
The report estimated that up to 7,000 Haitians were impacted by Dorian. The hurricane leveled parts of Grand Bahama and Abaco in early September last year. Haitian shantytowns on Abaco were especially hard hit with flooding and wind damage. Seventy have been confirmed dead since the storm. Most of the recovered bodies were found in Abaco shantytowns.
“According to the last national census, there are more than 39,000 Haitians, including more than 20,000 undocumented and possibly irregular, and 5,000 regulars,” the report read.
“Abaco island was devastated and much of the island was inhabited by Haitian workers. We calculated the number of 7,000 people evacuated from Abaco and other islands to Nassau. At present, 1,000 people were found in shelters, while others took refuge with foster parents for fear of being discriminated against and/or deported.”
The report noted that it is difficult to know exactly how many people have been deported. However, it said an International Organization for Migration (IOM) report dated December 5, noted 579 Haitians had already been deported.
The report identified Hurricane Dorian deportees as a major group in Haiti in need of humanitarian aid.
In a list of groups of Haitians in need of assistance, it read: “Between 1,000 and 7,000 Haitians are deported from Bahamas and require immediate shelter assistance. Eleven percent are women.”
The report added, “Most are from the north of the country.
“A dignified and safe welcome for these people was undermined by the limited resources of the Haitian state to guarantee minimum care (food, transportation, temporary accommodation) upon arrival.
“As of this date, there is no information on the exact number of people who will be deported in the coming weeks, but among the 7,000, the 1,000 people in the shelters would be the first to be evacuated referred.”