SURVIVORS cling on to the capsized boat after an incident that killed at least 17 people.
By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
CONSULTANT Louby Georges says greater emphasis needs to be placed on guarding the “poorly” manned borders of Haiti.
In an interview yesterday, Mr Georges said this should be a point of interest as both Haiti and The Bahamas continue to grapple with illegal migration.
“Migration, illegal migration is a very tricky kind of process, if you may,” he said. “It is sophisticated just like any other criminal enterprise. Human smuggling is a sophisticated ordeal within itself where you would have persons on both sides. Both the receiving country and the country in which persons are leaving from.
“However, as it relates to migration itself and illegal migration, I think greater emphasis needs to be placed on the borders of Haiti, which are poorly manned, poorly patrolled.
“I think the Haitian coast guards, if you may, marines, are lacking resources. They’re lacking training, maybe. They’re lacking insight, maybe to be able to navigate the northern seas of Haiti itself (from) where the majority of these illegal fleets and ships leave…
“And so, if we don’t go down to the root then The Bahamas, the United States, Turks and Caicos, others as receiving countries we will continue to see this issue. The issue cannot be solved, the problem cannot be solved in The Bahamas… there needs to be greater emphasis or some more attempts, some new strategies to be implemented in trying to alleviate some of the issues that are in Haiti. It has to first start with the Haitian people, the Haitian government of course.
“But I do feel like CARICOM has a role that it can play, that it should play in assisting Haiti to stabilise as best as possible.
“…New strategies need to be put in place in my opinion, to be adopted to at least diminish the numbers.”
Haitian Chargé de Affairs Anthony Pierre Brutus said last week he believed the only way to discourage Haitians from travelling illegally to and from The Bahamas is to grant visas to the community.
Although Mr Georges thought this would help, he added that a conversation in relation to the issue needed to take place.
“A plan would have to be put in place for better border management, migration management,” he said.
“Since the FNM administration, they would’ve come with some policy that says that in order for a Haitian to qualify for or be eligible for a Bahamian visa that Haitian would first have to have either an American, a Canadian, or a Schengen visa. If the Haitians doesn’t have one of those visas first, then they’re not eligible and you don’t even have to waste your time in applying. I think for years we’ve never had that.
“The FNM brought that in 2018 somewhere about. Before then, Haitians were able to send for family members to visit for funerals, for christenings, for graduations, for weddings and you know the Immigration Department would give persons seven days, 10 days, 15 days, 21 days. And the family member who you’re coming to see, who you’re coming to stay with would be responsible because you have to put your phone number (and) your address.
“So, I think we could do away with that tight restriction. Loosen it up but at the same time place the onus on the receiving family member. I think they had graduation the other day with immigration officers…put emphasis on following up on these sorts of thing, you know, have a unit in place that can follow up and make phone calls and require that the boarding pass or a ticket or something is presented (to) immigration after the fact, after this person would’ve had to leave within 10, 15 or 21 days.
“The issuing of visas would’ve allowed for us to bolster our tourism product. I mean it makes more money. It means more revenue for Bahamasair of course but at the same time ensures that you have the migration management policies or strategies in place to ensure that when persons come in they can leave but to make it near impossible for Haitians, a particular country or nationality to receive visas. I mean I think it’s ridiculous, in my opinion.”