A week after a Florida politician of Haitian decent called on all tourist and cruise lines to boycott The Bahamas in opposition to the enforcement of new immigration policies, representatives from The United Association of Haitians and Bahamians (UAHB) organisation here in the country has condemned the call for a boycott and blasted the politician for issuing vicious and inflammatory comments against the country.
During a press conference on Sunday, The organisation’s Spokesperson and Administrative Assistant Robertson Dieudonne said that Daphne Campbell’s comments are potentially damaging to the Haitian and Bahamian relationship in the country.
UHAB along with representatives from Haitian Bahamian organisations like Vibes United and Univision said that they intend to set the record straight.
“We along with Vibes United and Univision have decided to emphatically express that, we are not voiceless nor do we need a person or an international body to speak for us. It concerned us greatly when we heard the vicious and unfair comments fielded against the Bahamas by Mrs. Daphne Campbell,” he said.
“Neither Mrs. Campbell nor Ms. Jetta Baptise reside in The Bahamas, therefore we do not feel that they have the authority to speak on behalf of Haitians and people of Haitian descent in this country in the tone and manner in which they have spoken. While they are free to express their opinions, we wish to make our position clear that we oppose their suggestions that The Bahamas should be boycotted by Americans and other nationalities via its tourism product. We understand their passion for our Haitian brothers and sisters and would have supported them if we felt Mrs. Campbell’s accusations were accurate and fair. In this case, however, we do not believe that they were properly informed and therefore, their comments were both inflammatory and unfounded. Further, we do not see the wisdom in an international boycott of The Bahamas – there is too much to be lost for all stakeholders, citizens, resident investors, even for Haitians in the country.”
He added that the organisations had not communicated with Ms. Campbell prior to the press conference in Florida or thereafter.
Following Ms. Campbell’s comments, Haitian activist Jetta Baptise who claimed to be a Bahamian citizen had also expressed support for the politician’s call for a boycott on the country through local media.
Ms. Campbell had expressed concerned for the treatment of Haitian children during the immigration raids, she claimed they were being discriminated against and warned the government to issue an apology to within a week or face a visit from her and a delegation to meet with the government face to face.
In wake of that video going viral, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell dismissed the threats by Ms. Campbell as foolish and maintained that Haitian children were not being discriminated against nor mistreated.
Following the comments from Ms. Baptise, Mr. Mitchell also issued a statement and reminded the public that the constitution requires all citizens to act in manner which does not prejudice the sovereignty of the state or jeopardizes their citizenship.
The press statement also revealed that an investigation has been launched into their comments to determine if any administrative action would need to be taken.
Meanwhile, the Haitian Bahamian organisations expressed support of the government’s efforts to protect its boarders.
Mr. Dieduonne said they also support the destruction of shanty towns and continue to discourage migrants from travelling to the country illegally.
However, he said that they are concerned with the enforcement of the new immigration policies.
Mr. Dieudonne stressed that a six month extension should have been granted for migrants and Haitian Bahamians to prepare for the enforcement of those new polices.
“The time table was not realistic for undocumented persons to become documented over a short period of time, the Embassy of Haiti us unable to carry out the responsibility of issuing passports to Haitians born in The Bahamas because of the work load that they currently have and they’re unable to remit passports in a three month period so realistically that’s high improbable,” he said.
He added that the immigration department was not properly prepared to deal with the extra works load on Monday after the implementation of the new policies.
Mr. Deiudonne said they met with the government last week Thursday to discuss a number of recommendations and concerns, he adding that they expect to meet with the government soon.
“We trust that the Bahamian government would continue to work with the Haitian community in order to reach a mutual agreement in the way forward and hope that both the Bahamian and Haitian communities can continue to peacefully work together as has been the case over the past ten plus decades,” he said.
“We would not like this relationship to deteriorate as a result of Mrs. Campbell’s statement. Despite the difficult, and sometime tenuous relationship that the communities may have experienced and continue to experience, we believe that this is all a part of the growth process and hope that as we continue to work together in order to bring us closer to reaching our common goal of making The Bahamas the greatest country in the world, for its citizens, residents , and visitors.”
On November 1 new immigration policies came into effect that seek to clamp down on all foreigners living and working in the country.
All non-nationals residing in The Bahamas must show evidence that they have permission to live or work in the country.
In addition, the passport office will no longer issue certificates of identity to those persons born of non-nationals in The Bahamas and special residency permits for those with the right to apply for citizenships will only be given to those whose parents are lawfully residing in the country.