The Kendal GL Isaacs Gymnasium.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
JUST a day after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced that all “illegal” migrants will be banned from Abaco’s Family Relief Centre, some storm victims living in shelters are calling for the government to show more compassion to those without immigration status, citing the move as a “heartless” one.
“If the storm ain’t break you, these people sure will. What is a piece of paper? People been through sh‘t and they shouldn’t be worrying about these types of things. How much illegals here?” asked one shelter victim, who wanted to remain anonymous. “Ain’t much of them here and you worrying about status. These people almost died. Some of them are injured and they worrying about status. It’s heartless, man. So, if they can’t (live in the domes), where they gone send them to in the condition Haiti in right now?”
According to the November 1 Ministry of Health situation report, people in communities affected by Hurricane Dorian have not been presenting themselves to clinics because they fear deportation. BuzzFeed News similarly reported on Sunday that in a span of a few days 600 evacuees left shelters out of fear, this according to a United Nations internal report.
Several shanty towns across Abaco were also decimated after Hurricane Dorian - the most powerful storm to hit the northwestern Bahamas - pummelled Abaco and Grand Bahama, destroying many homes and businesses and displacing hundreds.
In response to the devastation left in Dorian’s wake, the government plans to set up a temporary family relief centre in Abaco, which will feature dome housing structures and is expected to accommodate some 1,000 hurricane victims.
But, as stressed by Dr Minnis, those who are living in the country illegally will not be allowed to reside on the centre’s premises.
“There will be no illegals in the domes, full stop, no illegals,” he said during a press conference on Sunday.
Responding to the prime minister’s announcement, one shelter victim – who wanted only to be identified as Mary Louis – told The Tribune that she is very fearful of her future.
After living in “Da Mudd” for some 20 years, Mrs Louis said she still has no papers.
“I served food in Da Mudd. I can’t go back Haiti because I have three children. I want try get work permit, but it’s too expensive. I three kids to take care of. Where will I find money to pay for work permit at a time like this?” she asked.
Mrs Louis found shelter in the church when the category five storm hit.
Like most hurricane victims, she eventually plans to return to Abaco.
But, when asked where she will stay considering her “illegal” status, Mrs Louis replied: “Whenever God wants me to go, I will go. I just can’t go back Haiti. The government say we can’t stay in homes they have, but I think it ain’t right. I’ve been in Abaco for 20 years. We just lost everything. Haiti is no better. I have nowhere else to go.”
Another shelter resident – who wanted to remain anonymous – expressed similar sentiments.
“I want to get a work permit because I cant’ go back to Haiti. It bad there. If the government don’t want us there (in the domes) then we could find somewhere to stay,” he said.