NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Philip Davis said he is disappointed in the US State Department’s suggestion that Cuban nurses deployed in The Bahamas could be victims of human trafficking.
Davis was asked about human trafficking during a press conference yesterday after at least 17 Haitian migrants were killed when their boat capsized during a suspected human smuggling operation.
The US, in its latest Trafficking in Persons report, said The Bahamas fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. However, the report suggested much more can still be done.
The report said individuals lured for employment are among those who have been trafficking victims or a particularly vulnerable to trafficking.
“In so far as that report is concerned that Bahamians…it’s laughable to me because they’re speaking about the Cuban nurses that we recruited,” Davis said.
“And I’ve said to the United States and I’ve said it on behalf of the CARICOM region that our nurses are being lured away from us after we would have educated them and trained them.
“They’re being lured away from us by the United States and Canada because their economies are able to pay them much more than what we could afford.
“So a nurse might be making $30k a year and they’re being offered up to $100k a year, $80 a year to go and work in the United States. And in the midst of our pandemic we’ve seen an exodus of nurses to the United States, so we ask, help us, send us some nurses, at least to (take) us through this pandemic.
“Well they haven’t, so we went where we could find the nurses and they’re here working.
“They’re working of their own free will. They were recruited properly and they’re working here properly, they’re being paid here properly and they could decide to go home whenever they wish so there is no coercion in respect to these nurses so I was really disappointed that observation could be made or would have been made that the Cuban nurses here may be, there’s some cloud of trafficking in relation to them. I’m disappointed.”
Earlier this year, 42 Cuban nurses joined the country’s healthcare system as officials try to address the drain of nursing resources.
Initially, the nurses were deployed to the emergency department, surgical department, and medical wards of Princess Margaret Hospital.
In its report, the US State Department said: “Cuban medical professionals may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. The high unemployment rate – reported to have exceeded 40 percent – resulting from the pandemic may have increased vulnerabilities for potential victims.”