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Please Help Us: Evacuees Fear For Future

Donations being delivered to the Fox Hill Community Centre, which is a shelter for evacuees.

Donations being delivered to the Fox Hill Community Centre, which is a shelter for evacuees.

EVACUEES have said they have been left feeling uncertain over their future as they try to adjust to life in refuge shelters.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

Fleurimond Toussaint finally saw an agent of the National Insurance Board after five hours in the waiting area.

The 42-year-old had heard NIB was expediting the unemployment benefit process for storm evacuees, so on Wednesday he left the Fox Hill Community Centre and caught a bus to NIB’s headquarters on Baillou Hill Road.

What the agent said surprised him.

“The agent told me they don’t have time for me. He say ‘I have time for residents and people with Bahamian passports,’ and he told me go to (the Ministry of) Immigration after I showed him my NIB card but I don’t know what he want me to do,” he said.

Mr Toussaint, who lived in the Mudd, is one of many displaced Haitians who are in limbo after Hurricane Dorian ravaged Grand Bahama and Abaco two weeks ago.

Some storm evacuees are now pining for financial help beyond the food, clothes and shelter provided so far and don’t know where to turn.

Public Services Minister Brensil Rolle, who has responsibility for NIB, did not dispute Mr Toussaint’s story yesterday. He told The Tribune: “In times of crisis, some things happen that are inappropriate.”

He reiterated the responsibilities of NIB, noting: “If you make a contribution, it should be in the system and if you’re working for an established business and they’ve not given to NIB, we’re going to go after that business. I don’t know that we can discriminate.”

One man, Success Jean, 37, has not been turned away by NIB – he just doesn’t know how to get there.

“I don’t know the location and where to go,” said Mr Jean as he sat outside the Fox Hill Community Centre yesterday morning.

Breakfast was running late and some displaced residents were fearing the shelter was running out of food.

Soon they were served grits and tuna with slices of avocado and packaged drinks like Capri Sun or Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink. Medical personnel from the Heart-to-Heart nonprofit organisation administered Tetanus shots nearby. Dozens of displaced residents were dressed in donated clothes they wore as volunteers took them to church.

Mr Jean stayed behind.

“Sometimes my bosses paid NIB every month, sometimes every three months, sometimes every six months,” he said. “I went to NIB before with a letter for a business licence. They told me my contributions were not up to date. I called my boss and he said he paid it every few months. If I go there now, I don’t know what to expect.”

People like Patrick Augustine, 24, say their inability to get benefits speaks to larger problems relating to immigration.

Mr Augustine was born in the Bahamas to Haitian parents and never visited Haiti. He applied for citizenship two years ago but has not received approval. He did maintenance work for the past three years without a work permit. He doesn’t have an NIB card.

“I went to school here and everything but I can’t get benefits,” he said.

One hundred and thirty-five people, mostly of Haitian descent, now stay at the Fox Hill centre, down from a peak of 239. Most Bahamian storm evacuees are staying with family and friends, but Shonel Ferguson, the Fox Hill MP, said they return to the shelter to collect a box of goods containing food, clothes, diapers and toiletries – important items that help lessen the burden on families that take them in.

Some of the people who have left the shelter have gone to Haiti, she said.

Fred Louis, 47, told The Tribune he is open to returning to Haiti for three months to clear his mind, but he can’t leave because his young daughters don’t have legal status.

“If I go Haiti with them, I can’t bring them back,” he said.

For now Mr Louis, a permanent resident who has lived in the Bahamas for 24 years, has no reason to seek unemployment benefits because his employer, Starfish Construction, has tentatively committed to providing him a salary.

“I talked to human resources on Tuesday, they’re trying to get (a) one bedroom (apartment) for me in Nassau,” he said. “I’m registered with NIB. I received a cheque from them before for being sick.”

As residents pondered their situation, a man from a Fort Lauderdale church stopped by and committed to indefinitely supplying breakfast and dinner to displaced residents, according to Ms Ferguson. Another company volunteered to donate a freezer. Bahamas Waste donated four portable toilets and a dumpster. The community centre has an industrial stove and a local company has agreed to run a line from the kitchen to the gas tank, which is separated by a pool. Ms Ferguson said there has scarcely been a need donors have not met.

Beginning on Friday, however, displaced residents have been ordered outside at 10pm to be searched for weapons.

“I never been jail in my life but I feel like I’m there now,” Mr Louis said. “My daughter was sleeping. I put her on my shoulder in the draft to be searched outside.”

“We’re grateful,” Mr Toussaint nonetheless added. Across from him, Patricia Box, 51, looked at the street, waiting for a pastor she recently met to take her to church.

She and Mr Toussaint have taken no comfort in the government’s suspension of apprehension and repatriation exercises for people affected by the storm.

Their work permits are expiring soon and if their renewal requests are approved, they will have no money to pay to get them. There are no jobs for them on the horizon and without something like a work permit, they fear they aren’t safe from deportation.

“Last week Friday, the Asue draw was supposed to come,” Mr Toussaint said. “I paid $200 every week and I was supposed to get about $5,000. That would have covered my work permit. I applied for two years.”

“If you don’t pay that,” Ms Box interjected, “if you don’t have that paper in your hand, that’s a problem for you. Immigration don’t play with people.”

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

It is in the national security interest of the U.S. to immediately start assisting the Bahamas government in any way that it can with the repatriation back to Haiti of the more than 60,000 illegal Haitian aliens in the Bahamas, most of whom are now on New Providence Island. Only the U.S. government is able to exert the intense political and economic pressure needed to force Haiti to accept the repatriation of its own nationals. These illegal Haitian aliens are an unsustainable burden for the Bahamian people and are destabilizing the Bahamas to the point where the Minnis-led FNM government will soon have little choice but to accept the contemplated generous offers of very significant financial support from the Xi-led communist regime of Red China.

Hurricane Dorian has unfortunately created a desperate situation for the Minnis-led FNM government and the Bahamian people, effectively putting the Bahamas up for sale in terms of global influence and alliances to the highest bidder. The U.S. government can ill afford a wait and see attitude given the track records of the last Christie-led PLP government and the current Minnis-led FNM government in cosying up to Red China's growing capital investments in, and and foreign aid to, the Bahamas. The Xi-led communist regime will undoubtedly use the crisis situation caused by Hurricane Dorian as an ideal opportunity to strengthen the foothold it has been endeavoring to establish on the door step to the U.S.

For the past two decades the Red China communist regime has been steadily going about building up anti-Trump and anti-U.S. sentiment within the Bahamas. The U.S. government needs to much more aggressively fight what has been happening and one easy way of doing so is to assist the Bahamian people in resolving their destabilizing illegal Haitian alien problem.

Bahamas Immigration officials with the help of our Defense Force personnel must start aggressively identifying and detaining illegal Haitian aliens at designated detention centres, where they can be held humanely pending their repatriation back to Haiti. This will not be an easy task because many of these illegal Haitian aliens are likely carrying fake documents they have fraudulently obtained (i.e. bought) from corrupt elements within our Department of Immigration itself.

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Clamshell 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The US has difficult immigration problems of its own. Don’t see why they should be expected to solve the Bahamas’ immigration problems as well. Should they also be expected to keep the power on over here?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The U.S. could do nothing and eventually simply end up treating the Bahamas and Bahamians as it has done Cuba and Cubans. Meanwhile the Xi-led communist regime will continue its expansion and influence in the Caribbean region as it has done on the African continent and as it is also now doing in Venezuela. But remember, just as no man can be an island unto himself, no nation (including the mighty U.S.) can be without its friends around the world.

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jamaicaproud 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Which is why Haitians are trying to establish a relationship.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

You're obviously a proponent of a borderless and lawless Bahamas under the deceitful guise and accusation that Bahamians are not a Christian and humane people simply because they wish to stop and roll back the harmful invasion of their country and way of life and culture by illegal aliens who have no regard for the rule of law and order, but prefer instead to live in a free for all society where everything is regarded by them as theirs for the taking.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I suspect you are either an unpatriotic Bahamian or an undocumented illegal alien, or possibly a foreigner legally residing in the Bahamas but with family members and friends who are undocumented illegal aliens. If you must, just make a voodoo doll called Well_mudda_take_sic and start sticking long sharp pins into it. That might just help you...who knows?

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jamaicaproud 2 months, 3 weeks ago

You are wrong on every count. Not Bahamian, not an illegal human like you. No family in Bahamas, Neither am I there. Salvation Army send regional director living in Jamaica and because he is Haitians you block him.

You go on a tirade about Red China but you defend into intellectual chaos about Haitians. If you did not have corrupt Police and immigration. Bahamian business could not pay bribes to get working papers for illegals.

That being said, can you think about this human catastrophe for once. That the lives of human beings àre affected and are at stake?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Repost:

You're obviously a proponent of a borderless and lawless Bahamas under the deceitful guise and accusation that Bahamians are not a Christian and humane people simply because they wish to stop and roll back the harmful invasion of their country and way of life and culture by illegal aliens who have no regard for the rule of law and order, but prefer instead to live in a free for all society where everything is regarded by them as theirs for the taking.

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jamaicaproud 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Your answer is based on the foolish premise that the Bahamas is the center of the Universe. Bahamas should be prosecuted for murdering hundreds with inadequate preparations. It should also be prosecuted for allowing statelessness buy not conferring citizenship by birth even when one parent is Bahamian. The Constitution also degrades women by trying to control them so they won't marry men of choice.Is marry Bahamian men or swethearting.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Whoa! You really are a certifiable nut case.

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TalRussell 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The world is watching!
Won't the refusal serve but single bowl grits and tuna with slices of avocado, not tell the world community about colony's internal meanness. Why should the world help those that turn their backs on the hungry right front them, yes, no .... no one has demanded of any local to first fill out a proof of nationality questionnaire - before being served hot bowl grits .....

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

True to form Tal: You're always coming to the defense of your Haitian brethren who have illegally entered the Bahamas. I suspect you couldn't care less about all the havoc wreaked on the lives of most Bahamians for the better part of three decades now as a result of the huge unsustainable burden associated with the extraordinarily large number of illegal Haitian aliens in our country; at least 60,000+.

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stillwaters 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Many, many Bahamians have been donating and donating to these established shelters. We cannot, however, help make any illegal migrant magically legal. They have reason to fear the future and they know exactly why.

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geostorm 2 months, 3 weeks ago

So true @still waters. After the dust settles, the government has to address those who find themselves illegally on our shores. There is only so much that we can handle. Supporting illegals is not one of them. I do believe, however, that we are obligated from a humanitarian stand point to at least give them the initial help that they need after such a devastating tragedy.

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TalRussell 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Ma Comrades, why lots say in favour withholding single serving hot grits, but not damn word about why aren't the unscrupulous employers not being arrested and jailed, without bonding, for not paying NIB the deductions monies collected out their workers paycheques, yes no....

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Persons who illegally entered our country are not eligible to be enrolled by NIB. The fact that they were illegally hired by greedy unscrupulous employers and got duped into having payroll deductions wrongfully disguised as national insurance contributions does not somehow now entitle them to receive benefits in respect of deducted amounts that were never paid over to NIB.

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jamaicaproud 2 months, 3 weeks ago

When the dust settles. Dear so called Christian country. The Bible warns nation's to take care of the widow, orphan, and foreigner. This is a test.The world should not send another bottle of water or food if the criteria is people must provide papers. People done tire of you all foolishness

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TalRussell 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Ma Comrade Jamaican Proud, it's right there 324 times written in Bible's bold print - what would be the required elements qualify for our colony - becoming a Christian group Out Islands, yes, no .. we's still long way, away .... be brave, go ask, Jesus, how unchristian-like deniers but bowl hot grits - should dare be's so boldfaced to make such claims ....

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jamaicaproud 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Anyway Haiti? Government of Haiti, stop being so useless. How can boatloads of people be smuggled and you don't stop it. How comes Dear Haiti you have provided no assistance consular , monetary or logistical to your citizens? This is bad, very bad. Stop making excuses and assist your people.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The first sensible thing I've heard you say.

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stillwaters 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Somebody must have hacked jamaicaproud's account!!!!!!!;!

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SP 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Trump has it right! Illegals are not just "foreigners in our country", they are lawbreakers from day one, everything they do for survival is also illegal, and should they be treated as such!

Nassau is already facing an acute unemployment issue and simply cannot afford to absorb thousands of illegal migrants.

Anyone with half a brain knew this situation was inevitable, it was a totally preventable disaster just waiting to happen. Unfortunately, the PLP and FNM are incapable of seeing beyond the tips of their shoes.

We better come up with two new political parties fast, or we can kiss the Bahamas as we know and love it goodbye!

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TalRussell 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Ma comrade SP, don't be consumed fret be Happy! Hurricane Dorian, done planted seeds solid caliber new political parties strike back at two mainstream political parties" ....

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Islandboy100 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Why is nobody asking for the arrest of Edison key he should ve in prison.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Most Bahamians don't know that before Edison Key entered active politics he made a small fortune (millions of dollars) from his ownership share of a very large scale farming operation in Abaco. The farming operation's profits were greatly enhanced by its extensive use of low cost illegal Haitian labour and its products were exported for the most part to the U.S. Edison Key soon began cozying up to SLOP and vice versa. Edison needed official papers for his farming operation's low cost Haitian labour and SLOP needed more PLP votes on what had traditionally been predominantly FNM turf. A match made in heaven ensued which planted the seeds for the explosive growth of both the Mudd and Pigeon Pea communities in the years to come. By hook or crook Edison went about securing legal documents - permanent residency certificates, birth certificates and citizenship papers for children of illegal Haitian aliens, passports and, of course, voter cards for those who could quickly be made able to vote with the understanding that they would support their new Papa Key. This paved the way for Edison Key's long career in active politics across both political parties - there has never been a more successful switch hitter in the history of PLP and FNM politics. Edison Key had created for himself a huge base of Haitian voters loyal to him and him alone. This allowed him to cross PLP and FNM party lines several times, whenever he got fed up with one or the other not treating him as he felt he should be treated. Yes indeed, Edison Key alone can lay claim to the Haitianization of Abaco. And there's your history lesson for the day!

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