NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The number of Bahamian evacuees registered with the Bahamian consul in Florida continues to grow daily, said the Consul General in Miami Linda Treco-Mackey.
In an interview with Eyewitness News Online, Treco-Mackey said they are aware of over 300 Hurricane Dorian evacuees living in limbo in the United States since the passage of the deadly Category 5 storm.
“We have more coming in and when we think the list is completed, we realize there are actually more,” she said.
“We know it’s more than that but we can only speak to those that we are aware of and who we have information for.”
Dorian, the strongest storm to hit the northwest Bahamas, left thousands displaced, hundreds missing and at least 67 dead.
More than a month later, Grand Bahama and Abaco remain in recovery mode without electricity and potable water in severely impacted areas.
“We now have over 300 and more that are registered with us,” Treco-Mackey said.
“And because of the last update we received from NEMA, which said that the temporary housing will not be ready before December, we anticipate that they will probably remain in the U.S., most of them, until then, because they don’t have any other previsions or prefer not to be in the shelters.
“So we anticipate having them for at least another month.
“…For the most part the kids are in school and I do not see them pulling their kids out of school until the term has ended. That seems to be the sentiments of the parents.”
According to Treco-Mackey those Bahamians are spread across Palm Beach, Miami or Broward County, Florida.
She has said while school-aged children have been allowed in public schools in the cities, the evacuees are not allowed to work as they only hold U.S. visitors’ visas.
Following the storm, the White House stated Bahamian evacuees would not be granted temporary protected status (TPS), which would have allowed them to live and work in the country.
The evacuees have been advised not to seek employment, which could jeopardize their visa status.
“Most of them they still have some four to six months, so their visas are good,” Treco-Mackey added yesterday.
“We always advise them not to overstay their visa time, so they are well aware of what issues that could cost.
“It’s not for a lack of knowledge because we had border patrol speak with them, as well as immigration attorneys, so they are well informed.
“If they chose to do that, it would be against our advice, and against broader control and immigration attorneys.”
The consul meets with those Dorian evacuees every two weeks, but Treco-Mackey urged those Bahamians who have not yet registered with the consul to do so as soon as possible.
“We are urging them to know where they are, to find out where their needs are,” she said.
“We want to make sure they are okay, so in as much as we can help with supplies or anything.
“Any kind of help that we can extend, we tell them we cannot do that unless we have their personal information. So that is really the purpose.
“And also, so that the government will also be aware, because want to make sure that none of the persons who may be considered missing may be evacuees who are here.”
Last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis advised those Bahamians living in the U.S. to return to The Bahamas to help rebuild.
The government has announced it will spend approximately $6.4 million on temporary housing for displaced Hurricane Dorian victims near Spring City, Abaco.
The Family Relief Centre covers 12 acres of land, and will feature 250 dome structures that includes plumbing, drainage, a sewer system, and electricity.
Minnis said the center will be in place for two years until individuals and families move into permanent housing.
He added that public schools on the island are expected to reopen in January.