Editorial: We Must Not Fail Those In Need

"In times of crisis, some things happen that are inappropriate."

These are the words of Public Services Minister Brensil Rolle, after The Tribune related an incident to him of Fleurimond Toussaint, turned away from NIB after a five-hour wait and told that the agent didn't have time for him, saying "I have time for residents and people with Bahamian passports".

It is without doubt that The Bahamas is in a time of crisis. We may be moving beyond the first phase of that crisis - getting people out of the immediate path of danger, but now we begin the longer crisis, with people not having a home, not having a job, not sure what their future will hold.

Around the country, people are trying to work out what their situation is. Some are in shelters, and may remain there for some considerable time. Some are lucky and still have a job, but may have been left without clothes on their back to wear while they work. Others have to begin looking for work all over again.

Not a single person will find their lives improved by being subjected to petty prejudice, or being turned away because their name isn't Bahamian enough for some. We talk of being a Christian nation, this kind of prejudice certainly isn't a Christian attitude.

Even those outside of shelters - staying with friends or family perhaps - still need support too, returning for essential supplies that can ease the burden as they try to rebuild their lives.

As Bahamians, we face a simple choice: We can help those in need, or we can make their lives harder.

We can choose to turn away people who have been waiting hours for our help. Or we can follow the example of the staff at Rubins, donating clothes for people who need them for work, or for job interviews.

We can look to the example of the New Providence Community Church - which has not only been conducting non-stop relief operations, but has also now started a job placement initiative to help find work for Hurricane Dorian victims.

Government too can help. Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis talked of shredding the red tape that hinders the recovery effort - well, what red tape can we shred to help people get back on their feet? What extra resources can we put in to cut the long queues that see someone wait five hours at NIB to start with, or that sees talk of student registration continuing for as long as another month for those displaced by the storm? What transport can be provided for those in shelters who know where to go to sort out their paperwork but have little way of getting there? Or can the staff from those departments come to the shelters and sort out the replacement paperwork there and then?

We need to think carefully about the problems our refugees face, and we need to offer them solutions, not more hurdles.

At the same time, we must remember that we are now in for the long haul. We must not let up on donating items that are needed, or giving our time to help distribute them.

It is our turn to be there for those less fortunate than us, and we must not fail them in their hour of need.


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