Charging that the governments of the Republic of Haiti and Commonwealth of The Bahamas must continue to work together to bring an end to illegal migration amidst the worst migrant boating tragedy on record, Haitian Charge d’Affairs Francois Michel said yesterday that a solution must be found “for this madness”.
His comments were made at Enoch Backford Auditorium during the funeral service for the 31 Haitians who drowned after their wooden sloop ran aground and capsized off Man-O-Way Cay, Abaco, on February 1.
Addressing the packed auditorium, Michel said the two countries share a long history as neighbors.
“Haiti and The Bahamas, we are neighbors in the Caribbean,” he said.
“The solidarity between the two countries must continue to [get] stronger, and stronger and stronger because we have all suffered the same.
“We have to deal with the illegal immigration situation and this situation, in dialogue with authorities between these two countries, they will come to the solution for this madness.”
The statement was met with applause.
Michel recalled Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ visit to Haiti last year, where he met with Haitian President Jovenel Moise to discuss illegal migration, and trade opportunities between the two countries.
He said that effort and the relationship between the two countries must be strengthened.
“[Haiti has] always connected to The Bahamas and Haiti always supports The Bahamas in every sector they want to be a part of,” he said.
“Haiti and The Bahamas are two countries [which] have come together to work together, and live together, and one thing also: to face the difficulties that they face.
“For example, the job trafficking… illegal trafficking of guns and humans; criminal transactions and terrorism.
“These activities, we have to come together to find a solution.
“For this reason, these two governments must continue to work together.”
Illegal migration issue has been a contentious one.
Thousands of undocumented Haitians have been repatriated over the years.
The tragedy over a week ago is the worst on record.
In 2013, 30 Haitian migrants drowned after their boat capsized in waters near Harvey Cay, in the Exuma Cays.
For the year, over 300 Haitian have attempted to illegally enter the country.
In a recent interview with Eyewitness News Online, Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield, who was a part of the delegation to Haiti last February, said he thought good progress was made during that trip to advance
“We had some very serious talks about the future and how we can move beyond this point of simply catch and release; how we can work strategically between our countries to cause there to be viable relationship that would encourage Haitian nationals to remain at home rather than taking this risky journey,” Henfield said.
“But of course, you know Royston, shortly thereafter there was some unrest in Haiti, which kind of retarded any effort we were making and we are still looking now how do we restart to renegotiation or restart and implement some the things we discuss.
Last February, The Bahamas and Haiti agreed to undertake joint initiatives that was expected to impact the flow of migration to The Bahamas, among other things.
The agreement was expected to encourage, “closer collaboration between national, regional and international law enforcement institutions, including information sharing for greater effectiveness in combating illegal immigration, illicit trafficking in narcotics, the smuggling of migrants and transnational organized crime”
In October 2017, Minnis have undocumented migrants in The Bahamas until December 31, 2017 to get regularized or leave the country.
He pledged to aggressively deal with the issue.