UN says it received worrying claims of abuse

A United Nations (UN) official recently visited The Bahamas to, among other things, verify “worrying” claims of “violence and abuse” used by Bahamian law enforcement officers, a representative said.

George Abu Al Zulof, a senior human rights advisor based in Jamaica, visited The Bahamas earlier this month after being invited by the Bahamian government “to discuss human rights matters related to deportations, repatriations, and other related issues”.

Ravina Shamdasani, the deputy spokesperson from the UN Human Rights Office, told The Nassau Guardian that Abu Al Zulof’s visit included a trip to Abaco, where he visited shelters and other hurricane-affected areas and interviewed many people.

“He also visited the Farm [shantytown], where hundreds of affected people are living,” she said.

She added, “The purpose of this mission to Abaco was to assess the current human rights situation in all affected areas, with a special focus on free and equal access to humanitarian assistance, including access to health and education; to assess the impact of immigration operations including detention and deportations in Abaco on the ability of humanitarian agencies to provide impartial assistance to affected population; and to verify worrying data we received from different sources about violence and abuse used by immigration officers and defense forces.”

Shamdasani said the organization is prepared to offer technical assistance to the government to ensure that vulnerable groups of the population are protected in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

“We are fully aware of the challenges caused by Hurricane Dorian and welcome the reconstruction efforts by the Bahamian authorities,” she said.

“As we mentioned in our press briefing on October 18, 2019, in the aftermath of natural disasters, it is particularly important to ensure that no one is left behind and that the opportunity to rebuild together is placed at the forefront.

“In this vein, particular attention must be paid to the most vulnerable, marginalized communities, to ensure they do not suffer from discrimination in accessing their fundamental rights to food, water, shelter and other basic needs and that the state ensures the human rights of all individuals affected.

“We stand ready to provide technical assistance to the government in this regard.

“One of the main objectives of this visit was also to continue the good dialogue and co-operation with the Bahamian authorities, brief them on our main findings and discuss possibilities of technical assistance with the aim of improving the human rights situation.”

Shamdasani said United Nations Resident Co-ordinator Mariko Kagoshima will meet with Bahamian authorities on Monday to discuss the situation and possible next steps.

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Rachel Knowles

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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