By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
WITH Haiti’s civil unrest “quieting down”, Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield yesterday confirmed repatriations to the country will resume “as soon possible”, noting the government is concerned about the detention centre’s capacity.
Mr Henfield also said the Bahamian embassy and consulate staff returned to Haiti yesterday morning with the country’s embassy in Haiti to reopen in “short order”.
Last weekend, the government announced the temporary closure of the Bahamian embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and the temporary suspension of deportations to that country.
In separate statements, both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) pointed to the increase in violent protests across the capital city of Port-au-Prince as a major factor in their decisions to suspend diplomatic services indefinitely.
Mr Henfield provided updates on these matters outside the House of Assembly yesterday.
“The ambassador and his team returned to Haiti this morning (Wednesday) on Bahamasair and so we anticipate the Embassy to be open in short order so we can begin repatriations and doing our regular consular and service business,” he said, noting the ambassador’s team consists of four individuals.
When asked if concern about the unrest has died down, Mr Henfield told the Tribune: “From what we’re understanding, things are kind of slowly returning to normal and we want to be in position so that if our embassy staff can operate that they be in a position to operate”.
“From what we’re seeing, things are kind of quieting down. The airports are open, the only flight that wasn’t flying to Haiti was Air Canada, I don’t know when they’re going to resume. We had indications that there were no impediments to the airport.
“We also understand that government offices are opening again, schools are reopening, so things are kind of returning to normal in Haiti and so we’re comfortable that they’ll be okay.”
The Foreign Affairs minister went on to address the capacity of the Detention Centre and repatriations.
“We were concerned and we remain concerned about the capacity at the Detention Centre,” he said. “And so of course we’re going to resume repatriations as soon as possible, hopefully this week.”
Mr Henfield said for repatriations to continue, “It’s just a matter of the Haitian government being able to receive them for us to able to do what we do.
“We construct a list, we send it to the Haitian government, they approve the list, and a repatriation flight is put on.”
When asked if he could speak to whether a Detention Centre base has been established in Inagua as yet, Mr Henfield replied: “I could not— I know instructions were passed that we put ourselves in a position to be able to operate a detention centre in Inagua at very short notice.
“All of the agencies and ministries concerned with the operations of the detention centre were notified: Ministry of Health, Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Social Services, my ministry, and so we were in position to lift and go.
“You understand that we have a Defence Force base at Inagua. In that yard there’s a facility built for NEMA, which is quite a substantial warehouse with accoutrements in it that we could readily use for a detention centre.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also released a statement yesterday addressing the end of the temporary closure of the embassy Port-Au-Prince.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, following up on its release of 15 February 2019, takes this opportunity to advise the general public that, following the required consultations, the diplomatic and consular staff of the Embassy of The Bahamas in Port-au-Prince have returned to the Haitian Capital and have resumed their normal diplomatic functions and consular services,” the statement reads.
“The Ministry will continue to monitor developments on the ground and keep the general public informed of the same, accordingly.”
This recent round of violence in Haiti occurred after months of anti-corruption demonstrations over the disappearance of almost $4bn.
The funds, set aside through the controversial Petrocaribe deal between Haiti and Venezuela over the last two-plus decades, was earmarked for social development before going missing.
The protest was championed under the slogan “Kot kob Petrocaribe a?” or “Where is the Petrocaribe money?”.
The demonstrations virtually shutdown several business and administrative districts in Port-au-Prince; including the neighbourhood Haitian President Jovenel Moise calls home.
Earlier this month, protesters stoned President Moise’s home, resulting in a clash with police that left at least one demonstrator dead.