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Hundreds of Bahamas hurricane survivors kicked off rescue boat due to lack of U.S. visas

September 10, 2019 at 11:00 am | News

Ama Nunoo

Ama Nunoo | Staff Writer

September 10, 2019 at 11:00 am | News

Evacuees gather at Marsh Harbour Port in Abaco on Friday, September 6, 2019, as they wait to leave the island after Hurricane Dorian swept through the Bahamas. Photo: CNN

The scary part of living on an island is when mother nature sends a category 5 storm your way.

For the people of Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian has left about 70,000 people homeless and stranded and about 45 confirmed dead, whiles many are still unaccounted for, the Root reports.

As part the human survival instincts, these stranded people would seek refuge for their families in nearby countries. On Sunday, September 8, 2019, about 120 people went aboard a private ferry, Balearia Caribbean, to seek asylum in Florida, U.S. Full of hope, the families went on-board the ferry at a port in Freeport in the Bahamas.

However, a lack of correspondence between the ferry service provider and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, CBP, has left about 100 of the survivors stranded. The two entities were the lifeline for these hurricane survivors.

Sadly, the Bahamians were made to get down the ferry if they didn’t have visas to enter the U.S. This only went to aggravate the trauma of the already stranded Bahamians.

The Fort Lauderdale bound ferry, minutes before departure, checked for U.S visas. Meanwhile, a Bahamian with a valid passport and a clean criminal record can enter the U.S., Brian Entin of WSVN tweeted.

Donald Trump, when questioned about the fate of the refugee seekers from the Bahamas, said: “We have to be very careful. Everybody needs totally proper documentation, because, look, the Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there.”

He added: “I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to go to the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very very bad drug dealers. So, we are going to be very very strong on that,” CNN reports.

It was based on prior information such as this that made the Balearia Caribbean ferry kick the Bahamians off their ferry. An email statement by the private ferry company said: “We regret and apologize for the hardship and inconvenience experienced by the passengers who are residents from Grand Bahama Island who could not be transported Sunday, Sept. 8.

“We boarded these passengers with the understanding that they could travel to the United States without visas, only to later having been advised that in order to travel to Ft. Lauderdale they required prior in-person authorization from the immigration authorities in Nassau,” the Miami Herald reports.

In a bid to clear its name, a CBP spokesperson, Michael Silva, also told the Miami Herald that customs would have processed the Bahamians into the country whether they had valid visas or not.  

He further went on to say the company did not want to run at a loss in case the journey went south. He added: “Their decision to make all those people get off board had nothing to do with CBP.”

Speaking to Newsweek, Silva further lamented: “It raised the expectations of these poor people who have been through an unimaginable situation with the hurricane…They raised their expectations only to then leave them terribly disappointed.”

The aftermath of Hurricane Dorian; nearly 70,000 people have been left homeless. Photo: New York daily

Amidst all this back and forth, the stranded passengers are at the core of the mess. All they want is a safe place to take refuge and start putting their lives back in order.

The effects of Hurricane Dorian is not a distant memory, hence, authorities are being asked to put their best foot forward and help the stranded evacuees from the island of Bahamas.

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