NASSAU, BAHAMAS – A United Nations agency has called on The Bahamas to halt deportations to Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.
In a press briefing note on The Bahamas, dated October 11, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concern over the deportation of 112 Haitian migrants on October 3.
Among those, the agency said, were people impacted by the deadly Category 5 storm in Abaco.
“We call on the government to refrain from deporting individuals who lack documentation, without the individual assessments and due process guarantees to which they are entitled under international law,” the statement read.
“…While Bahamian authorities had initially said immigration enforcement activities would be suspended in the affected islands, this position was publicly reversed at the end of September, when they announced that all migrants without valid documents would be apprehended and deported.
“This has led to panic among Haitians affected by Hurricane Dorian, and reports are emerging of people leaving temporary shelters for fear of arrest, and of people failing to avail themselves of necessary humanitarian services or going into hiding.”
The government temporarily suspended immigration enforcement in storm-ravaged areas for a brief period following the monster storm.
However, in his first address to Parliament in the storm’s aftermath, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis warned “illegals” to leave or be forced to leave.
Attorney General Carl Bethel has advised all migrant storm victims who lost their jobs as a result of the storm to “go home” even if their work permits were not yet expired.
For its part, the OHCHR further expressed concerns surrounding the discriminatory discourse circulating in the country.
“There have also been deeply worrying discriminatory public declarations against Haitians, as well as messages of xenophobia and intolerance in the media,” the statement continued.
“We are concerned that such narratives may lead to further stigmatization of or violence against migrants and minorities.
“In the aftermath of natural disasters, it is particularly important to ensure that the most vulnerable, marginalized communities do not suffer from discrimination in accessing their fundamental rights to food, water, shelter and other basic needs.
“We urge the government to ensure that no one is left behind in the recovery efforts.”
Similar comments were echoed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The IOM said it has rejected a request from The Bahamaian government to oversee forced repatriations of Haitian migrants.
The OHCHR further encouraged the Bahamian government to “put in place procedures that facilitate access to documents for all those who had legal documents prior to Dorian – particularly those who may be either stateless or at risk of statelessness – and to ensure they have access to independent legal counsel.”
The statement added: “We call on the authorities to halt any further deportations to Haiti at the moment”.