NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A group of Inagua residents staged a demonstration yesterday against the transport of 23 Haitian migrants, intercepted by the United States Coast Guard, to the island.
Royal Bahamas Defence Force Commander Raymond King told Eyewitness News that an RBDF vessel will meet the Coast Guard at a location off Grand Bahama or the coast of Bimini to receive the migrants, who were detained about two days ago while attempting to enter Florida.
Those migrants will then be transported to Inagua by the RBDF and detained at its maritime facility, according to King.
Immigration officers landing in Inagua yesterday spiked concerns the island could be exposed to potential cases of COVID-19. There has not been a confirmed case on Inagua to date.
Some residents demonstrated on the island yesterday, echoing concerns over the risk of importing cases of the coronavirus to the island.
They held signs and displayed them on their vehicles as they drove through parts of the island.
Some of the messages on the signs read, ‘Have a heart Mr. PM’, ‘Someone hear our cry, please don’t bring them here’, and ‘We don’t want them here, it is our island, please help us keep it COVID free’.”
Another sign read: “We have no doctor, We have one nurse, We have no test kits. We have zero tolerance for s**t”.
One resident, Flavio Cox told Eyewitness News that residents were strongly against the decision and feel aggrieved that they were given no warning.
“We don’t like it,” said Cox.
“We do not appreciate it because the people of Inagua were COVID free from this incident first started in the world, and we’d like to keep it that way and we are saying they need to go somewhere else.
“We don’t want them here.”
Residents on the island said they could see tents being erected behind the facility yesterday.
King said he could not confirm the extent of COVID-19 testing performed by the Coast Guard but noted they were confident that none of the migrants have displayed any signs of the virus.
He stressed there will be no contact with the wider community, adding efforts were being made to time the transport to ensure that a repatriation flight is ready upon the vessel’s landing in Inagua or shortly thereafter.
There are nearly 1,200 people living on the island.
Earlier this week, health officials revealed that a 20-year-old migrant had tested positive for COVID-19.
The migrant was reportedly apprehended by the US Coast Guard during an attempt to enter the United States and turned over to Bahamian authorities on July 5, and tested for the virus the following day.