NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell confirmed approximately 150 Hurricane Dorian survivors remain in the Bahamas Academy Gymnasium shelter.
Campbell said some 50 shelterees were transferred to the Wulff Road facility from the Kendal GL Isaacs Gymnasium, which stopped functioning as a shelter two weeks ago.
“The hope is that in the shortest possible period, the need will no longer exist, but we have a mandate from a humanitarian point of view in light of our promise and commitment in the aftermath of Dorian,” Campbell said.
“That is a mandate we hope circumstances would relieve us of by virtue of those persons being able to transition properly.”
Dorian laid to waste portions of Abaco and Grand Bahama on September 1-3, 2019, claiming the lives of at least 71 people and displacing thousands, many of whom resided in shantytown communities in Abaco.
While the number of shelters residents has drastically reduced from the over 1,000 people last November, it remains unclear whether undocumented storm victims have been removed.
Campbell said that is not the immediate concern of his ministry, which has sought to assist those in need regardless of their status.
“It was never our mandate to determine the status of persons who needed humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of Dorian,” he said.
“We gave humanitarian assistance based on needs that were identified and brought forward. Our information as to shelterees would have been shared across several ministries, which would have allowed each ministry to do whatever was necessary within their remit.”
He continued: “Our mandate was and continues to be to extend to the humanitarian arm of the government of The Bahamas for those who were in need as a direct result of Hurricane Dorian.”
As an example, Campbell said the Ministry of Education went into the shelters to ensure children who had enrolled in schools across New Providence, but had not attended, went to school.
He said similarly the Ministry of Health stepped in to provide preventative and responsive assistance when the need arose.
This included the treatment of scabies late last year.
Two weeks ago, Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson said officials will go in and remove migrants from shelters who do not have status to be in The Bahamas, insisting “we cannot allow shelters to be used as a mechanism to circumvent the law”.