By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
INAGUA residents yesterday expressed anger over the government’s decision to allow some 20 Haitian migrants to be taken to the island after they were intercepted by US Coast Guard officials on Thursday.
In a press statement, the RBDF said officials were called to assist a US Coast Guard cutter after receiving information that about 23 migrants aboard a Bahamian vessel were being apprehended while in US waters. Two of those migrants have since been flown out for medical reasons.
“The transfer between both the USCG cutter and the Defence Force patrol craft was conducted at Goulding Cay, located west of New Providence on Saturday, 18 July,” the RBDF said.
“There were initially 23 migrants, however two were flown out for medical reasons. Following the transfer, HMBS Bahamas proceeded to Great Inagua, where it arrived on Sunday.”
The RBDF said they took the migrants into custody and later transferred them to immigration officials for further processing after a change of plans.
“Instead of being housed at the defense force’s maritime facility as initially intended; plans were changed prior to arrival in Mathew Town where the detainees were immediately handed over to immigration officials on the island for further processing and staging at the police station.”
This comes after a group of residents staged a protest on Friday, raising concerns about the island’s COVID-19 level of preparedness should a case arise on the island as a result of the move. Videos of the protest made the rounds over social media, showing locals with placard signs reading: “We have no doctor. We have one nurse. We have no test kits. We have zero tolerance for st.”
Inagua resident Darren Cox told The Tribune yesterday even though he did not protest on Friday, he stands in solidarity with his fellow residents.
“I didn’t protest, but I was out there,” he said. “They had the whole town in their cars protesting but I wasn’t on the line behind them driving around but everyone was pulling together.
“But I don’t feel like they should’ve brought them (the migrants) there because only a couple people live here and I don’t think they should bring them here.”
Another resident Vaughn Cox expressed similar comments to this paper, saying he felt the migrants should have been sent elsewhere.
“In Inagua we don’t have no COVID, not yet,” he said. “And so we have to be very careful because the population only might be one 1,600. If one case happen, we gone.”
According to the 2010 Census, Inagua has a population of just over 900 residents.
“I don’t think we’re ready for that because everybody live in the same settlement. It isn’t like in Nassau or Freeport. Because everybody live in one settlement so if one person’s get infected, he gone home you understand,” Mr Cox said.
Last week, an undocumented male migrant in Grand Bahamas tested positive for COVID-19.
Yesterday, the RBDF maintained that officials are on high alert and closely monitoring the migrants for any COVID-19 related symptoms. However, none of them has exhibited symptoms so far.