NASSAU, BAHAMAS- Haiti’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bocchit Edmond on Monday made a direct appeal to The Bahamas government for a moratorium on repatriations for migrants impacted by Hurricane Dorian.
Edmond told Eyewitness News Onlinehe sent a diplomatic note to Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield in the aftermath of the deadly storm, and also spoke to him briefly in New York as they represented their respective countries at the recent United Nations General Assembly.
At the UNGA, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis underscored Dorian’s devastating impact as a “physical apocalypse for some communities” with more than 50 people dead and some 600 still missing.
Edmond applauded the Bahamian government’s efforts to provide relief for Bahamians and Haitian migrants, but said he had hoped officials would have established a moratorium after such a “tragic situation”.
He said he was concerned by emerging rhetoric concerning deportation of undocumented or irregular migrants given that “hundreds” have lost their documents, and remain in shelters.
Notwithstanding the deepening political crisis in Haiti, Edmond said Haitian President Jovenel Moïse has green-lighted the fast-track of replacement passports and related documents for Haitian citizens in The Bahamas – free of charge.
Violent protests continue to rage throughout Haiti, with demonstrators demanding the resignation of Moïse over corruption allegations.
On Monday, Edmond noted the deportation or repatriation of Haitian migrants without due process is a “very common practice” by The Bahamas government, and said longstanding concerns have deepened in Dorian’s wake.
Edmond said: “I sent a note, a letter to my counterpart minister Henfield requesting a kind of moratorium on the repatriation process because you may have people who are legally living in The Bahamas ending up here in Haiti because all their documents have been lost.
“I think they should give us a little time — as we are doing now; working on trying to help those people who lost their documents — to see how we can provide them with their legal documents so The Bahamas authorities can clearly and widely do what they want to do.”
Edmond continued: “I believe the most important thing would be to give that moratorium to let those people settle themselves before they can move with that decision. I spoke to my colleague (Henfield) when I was in Nassau a few days before the hurricane because this [deportation without due process] is a very common practice. People who have, to some extent, have certain status in The Bahamas, sometimes they get deported or repatriated to Haiti without any due process.
He added: “But I understand the situation it is very difficult now for the authorities to deal with all those issues at the same time, but all we are asking is to get that moratorium to stop the repatriation process.”
Edmond declined to say how much time Haitian officials will need to facilitate storm victims seeking to replace their documents, however, he noted Bahamian authorities are “well informed” of the process.
The Haitian embassy in Nassau was still working to compile statistics on the number of impacted Haitians, but Edmond said that figure was believed to be in the “hundreds”.
“I believe it might be difficult to get the right exact number,” he said, “But those in shelters now, we have all those data and putting in the embassy to see all those who lost a passport or birth certificate. We are going to work on those to give them all the documents they need.
“The president has already authorized the minister of interior, who is the minister dealing with passports to give the green light to those who have lost their passports because they have that data at the embassy.
“Once the persons come and says they have lost their passport, we will check their data and the passport will be returned to him or her.”
The Miami Herald reported last week that Moïse fired his interior minister, Renaldo Brunet, and replaced him with Education Minister Pierre Josue Agenor Cadet in an acting capacity.