Call for govt intervention in alleged abuse of Haitians

SEVERAL Abaco residents are decrying the alleged abuse of documented and undocumented Haitian migrants on the island by immigration officers, telling The Tribune government intervention is needed to ensure migrants are being treated more humanely.

The concerned Abaconians contacted The Tribune to express their frustration over what’s been happening on the island, particularly in Hope Town.

Yesterday, Abaco resident and local activist Frankie Fleurider told this newspaper several legal Haitian workers had reached out to him, complaining about “abusive” and “bullying” practices by immigration officers stationed there.

Some of them have complained about being hit by officers or having their money taken from them, he added.

But the Abaco resident said many are afraid to file a complaint with authorities because they had nothing to prove the alleged abuse happened.

Another resident, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed similar claims to this newspaper yesterday, saying there needs to be a stricter vetting process by the department when recruiting officers.

“One guy was legal and had a work permit when the officers surprisingly showed up, they caught him off guard and his phone was still in his hand and they started talking to him and the person who he was talking to on the phone thought the call dropped but because his phone rang, they slapped him telling him you need to cut this phone off,” he claimed.

The resident said while he agrees with government’s efforts to crack down on the country’s illegal migration problem, which he says is a major issue in Hope Town, the process needs to be carried out more humanely.

“Unfortunately, it’s not being carried out that way,” he added. “We have young new immigration officers to the department that have a very rough mentality.”

“Now the government is well within their rights to have these people rounded up, arrested humanely and repatriated, but I don’t think it’s right to (abuse) them ... I think the government of The Bahamas needs to put more emphasis on vetting people that are joining our armed forces.

“They can’t just pick up any willy-nilly person off the street because their uncle is the commissioner or deputy commissioner. You need to mentally vet these people to see where they’re at.”

Another Abaconian, who works at a business establishment in Hope Town, recalled an incident when plain-clothed immigration officers entered the shop, behaving rather “aggressively” towards Haitian customers.

“We had a few Haitians who was there who they asked for ID and I had a friend who did that but not everybody could do it but they (the officers) were so aggressive. They were drinking and they were not professional at all.

“You could do the job, but it’s how you do it because at the end of the day, they are still human, and they have this (perception) that every Haitian is illegal.”

She added that there are Haitians in Abaco legally, and who contribute to NIB.

When contacted by The Tribune yesterday, Rudolph Ferguson, assistant director of immigration, said he was not aware of the allegations as no complaints had been filed to the department to his knowledge.

“I would say this, there is an ongoing continuous investigation in the Abaco district,” he added, “and we do intend to continue these investigations and where we find undocumented persons in any area, then the full extent of the law will be applied.”

Notwithstanding this, he agreed that every human being had rights and advised concerned Abaco residents to make an official complaint to the immigration department, assuring them that the matter will be investigated.

Over the years, there have been multiple claims of abuse by immigration officers, with this newspaper reporting several stories on the matter.

Just last month, a video circulated on social media, showing two immigration officers slapping and hitting two Haitian barbers several times.

An investigation into the incident was launched shortly after the video went viral, but it is not clear if those investigations have been completed.


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