Govt. in talks with Haiti over repatriations

Govt. in talks with Haiti over repatriations
Elsworth Johnson, Minister of Financial Services, Trade & Industry and Immigration (file photo)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The government is continuing diplomatic discussions with the Republic of Haiti over the repatriation of Haitian migrants, Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson said yesterday.

Johnson’s comments follow a disturbance at the Carmichael Road Detention after several Haitian detainees staged a hunger strike and refused to eat any food provided until they were given a date for their departure flight into Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

He noted that the Ministry of Foreign affairs has been dealing with the matter, adding the exercise should be completed “very shortly”.

“The government has been and is taking all necessary steps to ensure that the fundamental rights of the individuals who find themselves at the detention center are protected,” Johnson told Eyewitness News.

“We are now facing three crises; that’s the climate, COVID-19, and an economic crisis.

“So one can imagine the persons who find themselves detained at the detention center, they are no stranger to that, and we have an obligation to protect the dignity of the human person.”

He insisted that The Bahamas has been commended on the improvements at the detention center by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

“There’s no issue with the quality of the food, quality of the environment, the level of protection,” Johnson continued.

“What happened there sometimes happen at first world institutions. Those persons are safe. We are trying our best.

“As we very well know everybody is [sheltering-in-place] and the borders have been closed. We are making every effort to assist not just persons from the Republic of Haiti, but all persons who find themselves there, back to their respective countries.”

“The community should understand that we are in contact with their government diplomatically, ensuring that they are protected.”

There are currently 133 detainees at the detention center, according to the  Immigration Department, of which 75 are Haitian nationals.

Repatriation efforts have been postponed since March due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. The country remains in a state of emergency until June 29.

In Haiti, the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 has significantly increased over the past few weeks to more than 2,600, with 50 people dying.

However with just two laboratories in Haiti able to process COVID-19 tests, there are concerns the number of recorded cases is far lower than what is likely to be the actual number.