By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
HAITI’S Foreign Affairs Minister Bocchit Edmond said yesterday he hoped the government’s decision to suspend visa services to Haitians would be resolved quickly.
Mr Edmond lamented the impact the suspension would have on Haitian-Bahamian families in the Bahamas, but noted it was a sovereign matter.
“It’s unfortunate to hear that,” he told The Tribune.
“I believe that measure will bother some families of some people who have relatives in Haiti, who possibly would wish to visit them. We hope that it’s something that’s not going to be for a long time.
“However, we need to recognise the Bahamas is a sovereign country. They are free to decide when or whom can receive their own visa.”
The government announced the suspension in a short statement on Wednesday, citing “current technical and other challenges”.
The suspension does not include nationals who are officials, diplomats or holders of a US, UK, Canadian or Schengen visa, the government said.
It follows Haiti’s corruption probe into its Nassau embassy, which Mr Edmond previously said revealed “unacceptable situations” and “wrongdoing” at the local embassy.
Since Haiti’s commission of inquiry in July, five Haitian embassy officials have been transferred out of the country, including former Chargé d’Affaires François Michel.
According to Le Nouvelliste, a Haitian newspaper, Mr Edmond raised the issue of trafficking of residence visas in the Bahamas.
The newspaper reported, quoting the Haitian foreign minister as saying: “Some people have gone directly through diplomats who have used their influence to help them get the visa.
Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield told The Tribune this week the suspension of visas is not connected to that; and this sentiment was echoed by Mr Edmond yesterday.
“It’s our decision,” Mr Edmond said regarding the embassy transfers. “The decision of government of Haiti has nothing to do with the Bahamas. We believe it was necessary to make some decisions to send a very strong signal to say we are not going to tolerate any action contrary to our rules.”
Mr Edmond said he has not yet spoken to Mr Henfield concerning the suspension of visa services.
“To be honest my colleague (Mr Henfield) called me (Wednesday) but I was unavailable to speak to him, but I guess it was to inform me of the government of The Bahamas’ decision. We did not know what is the reason, I will have to speak to him very soon so we can discuss and I can find out exactly what are the reasons.”
He added: “But the Bahamas has sovereignty, the only thing I would have to discuss with him is to find out the reasons and I will have to make a representation in that respect. Keep in mind this decision can affect family members of those Haitian-Bahamians who have relatives in Haiti, who probably will wish to come for a funeral, baptism, wedding, so hopefully that measures aren’t going to go on for very long.”