NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamians unable to return home amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic have launched a petition, calling on Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to open the country’s borders for Bahamians.
The petition launched by Renea Pennerman over the weekend, had nearly 300 signatures yesterday.
Among those to support the move is Kim Nesbitt from Freeport, Grand Bahama, who said her 14-year-old daughter is stuck in the United States.
“The morning after the prime minister announced the closing of the boarder, she was at the airport and her flight was cancelled,” Nesbitt wrote, in her support for the petition.
“She is a minor and has no family in the US. We didn’t even have 24-hours notice.”
At the end of last month, the government announced a nationwide shutdown, closing the country to all incoming passengers amidst the global spread of the virus.
Flights however have still been able to come into the country empty to pick up passengers and leave.
“Bahamian citizens, including the vulnerable and students in countries all over the world have been barred from coming home even when humanitarian flights were coming from other countries to The Bahamas to collect their citizens,” the petition read.
“This is an international disgrace and we want Bahamians and people all over the world to help us to tell our prime minister that he is wrong. Bahamians want to come home…We want to come home and we want our government to help us.”
The cause urged the government to act in the best interest of its citizens.
“The Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis, you have no right to deny Bahamians entry to The Bahamas,” the petition went on to note.
“This is not your country. This is our country, our home. Open the borders for Bahamians.”
Last week, some 45 British national tourists, short-term residents and their direct dependents were picked up from Nassau and flown home, along with 150 others from the Cayman Islands.
The stopover humanitarian flight was operated by British Airways and organized by the British High Commission along with Bahamian authorities, the Cayman government and other UK government officials.
Officials said none of the passengers on the flight were allowed to disembark in Nassau.
A German flight operated by Condor airways from Nassau to Frankfurt was also able to repatriate some of its citizens following the border closures.
The Bahamas has recorded 49 cases of the virus to date with just over 700 people in quarantine in government facilities or at home.
The number of cases around the world continue to rise daily, with global cases reaching 1.98 million, the majority of which has been confirmed in the United States (over 600,00 cases) – the newest epicenter of the virus.
Bahamians abroad and relatives of Bahamians aboard are pleading with the government to assist them with their safe return home.
Monique Hanna said her son is in college in Canada and she simply wants him home.
“I don’t know how long this epidemic will linger, school may not reopen in August,” Hanna wrote,
Debra Lambert from Freeport, Grand Bahama, noted her son and three others were still stuck in Jamaica.
Ana Maria Lord said her son lives in the United States and has not been able to return home, despite his continuous efforts.
Donna Hanna said she only planned to go to Miami for a short-time and is eager to return home.
“I came to be with my daughter while she is here to have her baby and I end up being one of those persons that got stuck and I would like to return home please thank you,” she said.
Miguel Baillou said, “I need to get home to my family”.
In Jacksonville, Florida, Rashanda Riley wrote, “I just needs to get home”.
From Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Stephanique Parotti said, “I signed because I want to get home to my kids and family.”
Since the closure of the borders, the government has repeatedly indicated that it does not plan to send emergency flights to pick up Bahamians stranded abroad.
When Chinese officials locked down the city of Wuhan on January 23, where the virus was first detected, The Bahamas government also did not opt to bring over 100 Bahamians who were there, back to country.
Those who did return, did so on their own volition and were quarantined for 14-days.