GENEVA, CMC – The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called on the Bahamas to refrain from deporting Haitian nationals after Nassau earlier this month deported more than 100 Haitians less than two weeks after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis warned illegal migrants they should either leave the country voluntarily or be “forced to leave”.
In a statement, the OHCHR said it was calling on the government “to refrain from deporting individuals who lack documentation, without the individual assessments and due process guarantees to which they are entitled under international law”.
The human rights group noted that many of the Haitians lived in informal settlements that were destroyed by the hurricane, losing their documents, jobs and belongings.
Earlier this month, a statement issued by the Department of immigration said that a Bahamasair flight had departed the Lynden Pindling International Airport for Port-au-Prince, Haiti with a total of 112 Haitian nationals escorted by a team of law enforcement officers.
The statement said that 21 females were among those deported and that it “will continue its commitment to carrying out the mandates of our agency to combat illegal migration by establishing effective border control management in compliance with the Statute Laws of our country”.
Hurricane Dorian slammed in the Bahamas on September 1, killing at least 60 people and causing widespread destruction in Grand Bahamas and Abacos islands, where many Haitians had lived before the storm.
The OHCHR noted that Bahamian authorities had initially said immigration enforcement activities would be suspended in the affected islands, but that ‘this position was publicly reversed at the end of September when they announced that all migrants without valid documents would be apprehended and deported
“We encourage the Government to put in place procedures that facilitate access to documents for all those who had legal documents prior to Dorian – particularly those who may be either stateless or at risk of statelessness – and to ensure they have access to independent legal counsel. We call on the authorities to halt any further deportations to Haiti at the moment,” the OHCHR added.
The human rights group, Rights Bahamas, had also been critical of the decision of the government saying it had alerted its international human rights groups to the “government’s savage, cold-hearted and illegal plan.
But Attorney General Carl Bethel said migrants who have lost their jobs as a result of the hurricane “need to go home” even if their work permits have not yet expired.
The issue of illegal immigration from Haiti to the Bahamas has been a long-standing problem with Haitians being stigmatized in the country.