NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The United States “sympathizes” with The Bahamas’ irregular migration problem in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, said David Hale, the U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs in the State Department.
In the aftermath of the Category 5 storm, which barreled its way through Grand Bahama and Abaco in early September, the government has deported hundreds of undocumented Haitian migrants.
The efforts have garnered ongoing criticism from various United Nations agencies as tensions continue to increase over the longstanding matter.
Following a meeting with government officials yesterday, Hale was asked by reporters whether the U.S. supports the government’s decision to deport Haitian storm victims.
“The United States and the Trump administration of course is focused as well, so we sympathize with any country that is dealing with the consequences of irregular migration,” Hale said.
“We know that this is a concern here. It’s important that whatever is done, is in accordance with international norms and I would put a premium on good corporation and coordination between the two governments affected.”
He added that he will be going in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, today and “will describe what I learned when I was here in The Bahamas and encourage that kind of supportive work together”.
The strongest storm on record to hit the Northwest Bahamas left thousands displaced, hundreds still missing and at least 70 dead.
Dorian destroyed the two largest of the six Haitian shantytown communities on Abaco.
In the days immediately following the storm, the government announced that it had suspended the deportation of immigrants in the affected areas.
However, just two weeks after this declaration, non-regularized individuals were warned that they “are not safe” and told to “go home” if they lost a job as a result of the storm.
The government also issued a cease order with immediate effect for The Mudd, The Peas, Sandbanks and The Farm in order to prevent anyone from building or developing in those communities.
The United Nations has pledged to assist Haitian residents living in The Bahamas who were affected by
Hale yesterday met with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of National Security Marvin Dames, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) implementing partners and other government officials.
The group was reportedly discussing the longstanding and enduring partnership between the two countries, as well as America’s continuing support for The Bahamas in the wake of the devastating storm.
“Today I felt warmly welcomed by the prime minister and minister of national security… and I assured them of America’s support for the people and government of The Bahamas as you continue to recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Dorian,” Hale said.
“As a component of our support, I just got concluded meeting with the very hard-working women and men who are implementing our assistance.
“America has provided these implementing partners over $34 million via USAID to help meet the acute humanitarian needs throughout the country and they outline the work they are doing to assist efforts related to shelter, healthcare, logistics, water and sanitation on Grand Bahama, Abaco and on New Providence.
“Most of these partners will continue their work in the area most affected by the storm, well into 2020.
“As the Bahamas moves into the reconstruction phase, we are committed to helping galvanize the immense generosity of the U.S. private sector and its donors as well as the expertise of U.S. companies.”