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BAHAMAS | UN human rights group urges Bahamas to reconsider deporting Haitians

Featured FLASHBACK: An aerial view shows devastation after Hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in The Bahamas, September 3, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. (Reuters) FLASHBACK: An aerial view shows devastation after Hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in The Bahamas, September 3, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. (Reuters)
GENEVA,  October 16, 2019 - The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called on the government of  The Bahamas to refrain from deporting Haitian nationals, after Nassau earlier this month deported more than 100 Haitians less than two weeks after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis warned illegal migrants they should either leave the country voluntarily or be “forced to leave.”

"We are concerned about the deportation of 112 Haitian migrants from The Bahamas to Haiti last Thursday, including people from the Abaco Islands, which were badly hit by the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian in September this year. We call on the Government to refrain from deporting individuals who lack documentation, without the individual assessments and due process guarantees to which they are entitled under international law," said the UNHCR in a release.

Haitian migrants have often found themselves in positions of vulnerability in The Bahamas, as documented by UN human rights mechanisms. Many of them lived in informal settlements that were destroyed by the hurricane, losing their documents, jobs and belongings.

While Bahamian authorities had initially said immigration enforcement activities would be suspended in the affected islands, this position was publicly reversed at the end of September, when they announced that all migrants without valid documents would be apprehended and deported.

This has led to panic among Haitians affected by Hurricane Dorian, and reports are emerging of people leaving temporary shelters for fear of arrest, and of people failing to avail themselves of necessary humanitarian services or going into hiding.

There have also been deeply worrying discriminatory public declarations against Haitians, as well as messages of xenophobia and intolerance in the media. We are concerned that such narratives may lead to further stigmatisation of or violence against migrants and minorities.

In the aftermath of natural disasters, it is particularly important to ensure that the most vulnerable, marginalised communities do not suffer from discrimination in accessing their fundamental rights to food, water, shelter and other basic needs. We urge the Government to ensure that no one is left behind in the recovery efforts.

We encourage the Government to put in place procedures that facilitate access to documents for all those who had legal documents prior to Dorian – particularly those who may be either stateless or at risk of statelessness – and to ensure they have access to independent legal counsel. We call on the authorities to halt any further deportations to Haiti at the moment.

Earlier this month, a statement issued by the Department of immigration said that a Bahamasair flight had departed the Lynden Pindling International Airport for Port-au-Prince, Haiti with a total of 112 Haitian nationals escorted by a team of law enforcement officers.

The statement said that 21 females were among those deported and that it “will continue its commitment to carrying out the mandates of our agency to combat illegal migration by establishing effective border control management in compliance with the Statute Laws of our country”.

Hurricane Dorian slammed in the Bahamas on September 1, killing at least 60 people and causing widespread destruction in Grand Bahamas and Abacos Islands, where many Haitians had lived before the storm.

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  • Countries: Bahamas

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