NASSAU, Bahamas: Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has criticized Bahamians opposed to the decision to release over 100 Haitians from the country’s detention centre, following the devastating quake in their homeland.
The decision grants temporary status to 102 illegal immigrants for the next six months. In addition, deportation of undocumented Haitians has been suspended for the time being.
The move is in accordance with policy decisions taken by other countries, including the United States, which has granted undocumented Haitians an 18-month temporary protected status and suspended repatriation of illegal Haitians.
The criticism by some Bahamians has incensed Ingraham.
“This Christian society of ours where most households have televisions, they are able to see what is happening in Haiti and I can’t imagine hypocrites going to church on Sunday morning and then saying on the radio and in the newspapers and in their hearts, that we ought to detain and keep these people and send them back to Haiti,” Ingraham said.
“The circumstances are that the Haitian homeland, and especially their capital city, has been devastated by the worst catastrophe in 200 years, with tens of thousands dead and more dying every day, with people starving, with infrastructure destroyed and with governmental agencies rendered impotent. It should be obvious that in these circumstances it is simply impossible to send undocumented Haitian nationals back to their homeland,” he added.
Unlike the situation in the U.S., where those granted temporary status will be allowed to work, a decision has yet to be made on whether the undocumented immigrants in the Bahamas will be given that opportunity.
Ingraham said the matter will be discussed this week.
“It is expected that we will favourably consider them being allowed to work while they are here,” he said. “It would be, in my view, unacceptable for them to only reside in the Bahamas and not be gainfully employed while they are here.”
However, like the policy outlined by the U.S., newcomers will be treated differently.
“Any new people coming in will be detained by the Bahamas and will be dealt with in accordance with our laws and we don’t intend to provide them with status if they now come into the Bahamas from Haiti,” said Ingraham.