The Bahamas Haitian Situation– Part 2
By Apostle Cedric Moss
March 18, 2004
Was Aristide forced out? Many are discussing this question locally and abroad and choosing which account they believe, Aristide’s or The United States of America’s. In my view, beyond the need to give it some consideration at the diplomatic level, whichever account is right, it makes little difference for The Bahamas. The situation of tens of thousands of illegal Haitian immigrants in our country still represents one of our biggest national challenges and the academic discussion about Mr. Aristide only distracts us from focusing on much needed proactive solutions.
The Proposed Agreement
For the past 10 years, efforts have been made by The Bahamas’ government to enter into an agreement with the Haitian government to cover mass repatriation of Haitians residing in The Bahamas. To date, the agreement is still not signed and with the current unstable climate in Haiti, it is not likely to be signed any time soon. However, even if we could sign the agreement today, what would it really accomplish?
As I understand it, this agreement was initially negotiated around 1994. The intention was to seek to regularize Haitians who have resided in The Bahamas prior to 1985 and to repatriate those who arrived illegally after that date. Had the agreement been signed and implemented around the time it was initially negotiated, tens of thousands of Haitians who had illegally resided in The Bahamas for periods of one to ten years would have been repatriated. Among them would have been thousands of children born to Haitian parents, even though such children have the right to apply for Bahamian citizenship at age 18.
Considering that 1985 is still the threshold year for the agreement waiting to be executed, Haitians who have illegally resided in The Bahamas for as long as 19 years could potentially be repatriated. While we as a country have the legal right to repatriate them, even without a signed agreement, would it be the humane thing to do after allowing them to remain for so many years? How would we manage the future fallout that would come from the generations of Bahamians born to Haitian parents who were subjected to this traumatic experience?
Am I proposing that we officially absorb the unknown tens of thousands of illegal Haitian immigrants currently residing in The Bahamas as opposed to repatriating them? No, I’m not proposing that at all. However, I am saying that we need to consider alternative solutions, because we know full well that repatriation is only a temporary solution, and a costly one at that.
While I believe successive governments of The Bahamas have sought international assistance to deal with the problem of illegal immigration from Haiti, it’s my view that we need to redouble our efforts in this direction. Somehow, we need to involve The United States, Canada, France and The United Nations in order to seek both short and long term solutions to the problems in Haiti and the illegal immigration situation we face as a result. The reality is that unless Haiti stabilizes and attracts investment to create jobs, Haitians will continue to leave in search of a better way of life and The Bahamas is their logical first destination.
Here to Stay
For many Haitians, they are far beyond making that desperate seas voyage from Haiti to The Bahamas; they are already here. And they are here to stay. Some came prior to 1985 and much later. While they were enduring exploitation by far too many of us, they seemed to have followed the advice Prophet Jeremiah gave to the Israelites who were in exile in Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease” (Jeremiah 29:5-6, NIV). The Haitians also followed another one: Educate your children. All of these they have done, so uprooting and deporting them today is not near as easy as it was 25 years ago.
Preview of Next Week
Since Haitians are here to stay in large numbers, how can we manage their assimilation for the overall good of The Bahamas? Join me next week when I conclude my commentary and answer this question.
Apostle Cedric Moss serves as Senior Pastor at
Kingdom Life World Outreach Centre. Commentary and feedback may be directed to:
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