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Bahamas government suspends immigration crackdown

Published:Monday | September 9, 2019 | 9:41 AM
Hurricane damage in the Bahamas.

NASSAU, Bahamas, CMC – The Bahamas government says it has suspended the crackdown on illegal migrants in the Abacos and Grand Bahama as the death toll from the passage of Hurricane Dorian a week ago climbed to 44.

Minister of Financial Services, Trade, Industry and Immigration, Elsworth Johnson, said that with the country “presently experiencing a humanitarian crisis in aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, strict instructions have been given to the Immigration Department that our concentration is on assisting with the humanitarian efforts to rescue and save lives regardless of place of origin, nationality or immigration status”

He said further that the authorities are “obligated to and will continue to secure our borders, all domestic apprehension exercises in the affected areas are suspended.

“We also invite all in our community to assist as best they can with the humanitarian efforts now underway,” he said.

Prior to the passage of the hurricane, the Bahamas had implemented a crackdown on illegal migration, particularly directed at persons from Haiti.

A Bahamian immigration policy requiring that all residents carry passports has led to increased raids of shantytowns and other areas with large undocumented populations.

Following the devastation caused by the storm, the Miami-based Family Action Network Movement and more than 20 other groups released a letter addressed to Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis and other government officials.

“Our agency has received several SOS from residents because they are scared to seek help because of their immigration status,” the letter noted.

“Fear in Haitian immigrant communities is at an all-time high and, without intervention, will prevent needy families from accessing vital services, including asking for shelter in public facilities, when needed, and protecting or assisting others,” the letter noted.

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