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Questions raised over decision to repatriate Haitian migrants found onboard boat

February 9, 2010

Article in The Tribune today – about the recent decision to repatriate Haitian Migrants by boat from Exuma. Reporter Alison Lowe highlights a number of issues of concern. Erin Greene was interviewed by Alison Lowe for this story, as well as former Immigration Minister.

It seems that the government is going back and forth about the policy they asserted two weeks ago. And it seems that since the media attention on Haiti is wanning – perhaps they feel like they can begin repatriation without recourse or “bad press” or the international community frowning upon The Bahamas. We must keep the fight going and get our voices out there! We need to let the Prime Minister know that there are those of us out here who are still paying attention and STILL want The Bahamas to grant temporary status for Haitians seeking refuge post-earthquake.

THE government’s decision to repatriate a group of Haitian migrants found onboard a boat in Bahamian waters has been called into question by a former Immigration minister and a human rights activist.

Former Immigration Minister Shane Gibson said the revelation that the government plans to escort the migrants directly from their vessel in Exuma back to Haiti begs the question of why the government is not repatriating all Haitian migrants, including those who reach Bahamian soil.

Meanwhile, Erin Greene, a human rights activist and co-organiser of the Haitian Bahamian Solidarity letter writing campaign — launched a call for temporary status for all Haitian migrants in the wake of the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake in January — said the decision taken by the government is “inconsistent” and lacking in transparency.

Two and a half weeks ago Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham stated that the government could not repatriate Haitian migrants as the government in Haiti post-earthquake was not functional enough to authorise such a move and “there’s no possibility of the Haitian government or the international community expecting us to send them back.”

“It would be foolhardy of us to even ask the Haitian government — which is now not quite functional — to process and receive illegal immigrants,” he said.

However, in an apparent shift in policy, the Prime Minister stated on Sunday that a group of 62 Haitians found onboard a vessel in the Exuma chain were being “contained” ahead of being “escorted” back to Haiti — without coming to the capital for processing as has traditionally been the practice when migrants are found at sea.

In an interview with the Associated Press, which appeared in the international media yesterday, the Prime Minister confirmed that this is the approach the government now plans to take with regard to all undocumented migrants detected onboard vessels in Bahamian waters.

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