Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham said The Bahamas will be providing in the order of a half million dollars in financial assistance to storm ravaged Haiti, and will be providing a similar sum to the Turks and Caicos Islands.
“The Bahamas is going to be providing Haiti with a substantial amount of financial assistance,” the Prime Minister said during an interview in New York. “We are probably going to do so through Caricom, but the assistance is likely to be in the order of US$500,000. We would be doing a like sum for the Turks and Caicos Islands which has also been devastated.”
Referencing recent storm damage sustained in Haiti, Mr. Ingraham also noted that regular apprehension exercises carried out by the Department of Immigration in The Bahamas would have to be tempered against the realities of Haiti’s current infrastructural challenges.
The Prime Minister said: “Haiti has been devastated as a result of the hurricanes; which produces substantial challenges for The Bahamas. For instance, the apprehension exercises which the Immigration Department conducts with some regularity will have to be tempered against the reality that in Haiti it is not possible for the Haitian Government to provide transportation for persons who are sent back from The Bahamas to places where they live.”
Expounding on this point, Prime Minister Ingraham pointed to the current difficulty in Haiti of getting food and medicine to many of its communities and its people because of damaged and destroyed roadways and bridges.
“And so that is a particular sensitivity that we have to balance,” he explained. “On the one hand (is) our desire and need to ensure that persons are not in The Bahamas illegally and also the reality and the sensitivity of being able to dump people at an airport in Haiti who have no means of getting back to their homes.
“And of course we cannot take them to Haiti without the Haitian Government’s permission and so if the Haitian Government is putting forward points of view about their difficulties and we are insensitive to it, I think you would end up with a situation that is a stalemate.”
Mr. Ingraham said Haiti was kind enough to take back 83 illegal immigrants who were intercepted near the southern Bahamas island of Inagua last week, adding that the United States Government was kind enough to transport the Haitian nationals back to Haiti via its Coast Guard.
“We did not have a ship that could do so and of course the Haitian Government was understanding enough to accept them,” the Prime Minister said. “So clearly from the point of view of interceptions – those who are coming in, our policy will continue; that we would want to return them immediately.
“But insofar as the regular apprehensions, we’ll have to take that into account, [that is] the reality in Haiti for the time being.”
During his address to the 63rd United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Ingraham highlighted the impact of this year’s hurricane season in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Cuba and Haiti, indicating that the condition of Haiti “leaves much to be desired” because of its ongoing political, economic and social problems.
“Therefore, The Bahamas is especially pleased that the United Nations has remained actively engaged in Haiti and hopes that the much-desired improvement of economic conditions in Haiti will soon eventuate. Above all else, Haiti requires the establishment and maintenance of peace and security,” he told the world body.
“As the current Chair of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), I am pleased that the Caribbean Community (Caricom) has been able to contribute to the relief efforts in Haiti, but its needs remain at proportions that can only be addressed by the international community.”
The Prime Minister meantime emphasised during his interview the “critical importance” of stability, security, economic activity and support for education and healthcare in Haiti.
“What happens in Haiti impacts The Bahamas because the reality is that large numbers of Haitians are either in The Bahamas or continue to come to The Bahamas – that is what happens when people lose hope in their own country and have the need for employment and opportunities and our geographical nearness to Haiti puts us in that direct path.”