‘WE’RE EXPOSED’: Inagua residents fear COVID surge amid migrant development

‘WE’RE EXPOSED’: Inagua residents fear COVID surge amid migrant development
Haitian migrants on Inagua in September 2021.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As the government seeks to humanely hold and repatriate hundreds of Haitian migrants on Inagua, while shoring up the southern border in preparation for more landings, 66-year-old Harold Seymour said with each apprehension there is a growing threat of a potential surge of coronavirus and other diseases on the small southern island.

More than 900 Haitian migrants have been apprehended in the southern Bahamas since last week, with over 500 in holding on Inagua.

“That is one of the concerns and you don’t know what other types of diseases that they [may] be carrying, you know,” he told Eyewitness News, adding that one or two residents remain hospitalized with COVID-19 on New Providence.

A group of suspected undocumented Haitian migrants on Inagua in September 2021.

“…Then everyone is bunched up together. There is no social distancing nowhere there.

“They are down to the Household of Faith Church and you have about over 400 at the church.

“They have something like a little auditorium and I think 140 or 150 is back there by the police station here in Inagua.

“We will have numbers such as 50, 80 or probably 100 and in about two days, they are out of there, but we have never had this mass migration here, like up in the 500s.

“We have never had something like that here.

“The thing is the island now has about 26 or 27 cases. That’s what we have.

“We could keep everything under control. The people here social distance, use their mask and a lot of the residents, they look like they’re now trying to see if they can get the [vaccine] shots.

“It seems as if the immigration and the customs and defense force has them under control and they don’t move about the town, but you see, we have to be careful with the defence force officers, the customs officers and immigration because they come into our business place to purchase stuff.”

Seymour, a Morton Salt employee, has been fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca.

His fiancee is now motivated to follow suit given the potential for a rise in cases on the island.

However, Seymour’s 10-year-old daughter is not eligible to receive the jab, as Pfizer is only available for anyone over the age of 12.

Inagua has recorded 29 coronavirus infections since the onset of the pandemic.

A group of suspected undocumented Haitian migrants on Inagua in September 2021.

Just four new infections have been confirmed on the island since August 3.

Nelson Burrows, a father of one, said sanitation and sufficient facilities to maintain health are a concern and called upon the government to provide more nurses and doctors to ensure there is no spread of cases on the island.

He said while a health team was sent to the island, “you can never have enough” with the number of migrants on the island.

“That’s some of the main concerns and why residents are making so much noise,” he said.

“They are saying they don’t know if they have COVID.

“[The nurses] are testing them.

“That’s very, very important.”

Burrows has not been vaccinated.

Asked what will happen if there is a surge of cases on Inagua, Burrows said: “I will probably try to get vaccinated then.”

Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe, QC.

Addressing the media yesterday ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting, Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe said the response to the developing migration situation is being sustained by competent law enforcement authorities and a multitude of regional and international partners.

He said the issue of migration, which is not isolated to The Bahamas, will continue until Haiti is “fixed”, adding: “Our efforts must be to interdict illegal migrants, to process them quickly and then to return them to their home country.

“We have competent police officers and marines and officers doing that.

“There is cooperation between multilateral agencies down in the southern Bahamas and off the southern Bahamas.

“The US Coast Guard has patrol craft out there and an aircraft; the RBDF has a patrol craft out there and an aircraft; and recently, the RBPF safe boat was involved in migrant interdiction.”

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.