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Haitians in the Bahamas Fear Deportations In Wake of Hurricane Dorian

With More Than 300 Dead, Haitians in The Bahamas Facing Deportations, Homelessness And Discrimination After Hurricane Dorian

GREAT ABACO, BAHAMAS – SEPTEMBER 5: People carry their possessions after Hurricane Dorian passed through in The Mudd area of Marsh Harbour on September 5, 2019 in Great Abaco Island, Bahamas. Hurricane Dorian hit the island chain as a category 5 storm battering them for two days before moving north. (Photo by Jose Jimenez/Getty Images)

By Jonathan Greig

Thousands of Haitians across The Bahamas are struggling to survive and recover more than three weeks after Hurricane Dorian brought death and destruction to their doorstep.

As one of the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricanes ever recorded in history, Hurricane Dorian brought an unprecedented amount of damage to The Bahamas on Sept. 1, pounding the island archipelago with nearly 200-mph winds, 30-foot tidal surges and buckets of rain. 

Haitians — many of whom have lived in unregulated shanty towns for generations — were hit hardest by the storm yet have had to face mass deportations and discrimination in the aftermath of the hurricane.

After three weeks of recovery efforts, the latest reports from the Bahamanian government and United States Agency for International Development said  the official death toll is now at 51, with another 1,300 people still deemed missing. 

People on the ground say the situation is far worse for Haitian residents, many of whom live in the devastated Mudd and Pigeon Peas, two vibrant- but shoddy- settlements built up and dominated by Haitian immigrants for decades.

According to government estimates, these neighborhoods had more than 1,000 homes and an estimated population size of about 4,000.

Both The Mudd and Pigeon Peas were stuffed full of flimsy, poorly built-shelters which were completely flattened after withstanding 40 hours of the record-breaking storm. 

Haitians have long had a huge presence in the Bahamas, serving as the backbone of the country’s workforce for decades. Thousands of Haitians work as cooks, gardeners, construction workers and maids at homes and hotels across The Bahamas – an archipelago with more than 700 islands and smaller sand banks called cays.

Despite their significant contributions to the country, Haitians are frequently targeted, harassed  and deported en masse by the government. The situation has only worsened in recent years since the government passed a 2014 law forcing everyone to carry a passport at all times. 

“Haitians have contributed to building the infrastructure of The Bahamas just like they have in the Dominican Republic,” Marleine Bastien, executive director of the Family Action Network Movement. “They’ve been used and targeted as a political scapegoat in The Bahamas so this is nothing new, but it is sad that after such an overwhelming crisis, that instead of rallying to make sure that everybody’s basic needs are met, that this group once again is targeted, vilified and demonized. This is really sad but we also know that historically, this has been part of the game plan.” 


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Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig is a journalist based in New York City working as a contributing writer for CBS Interactive. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia since 2013.
Jonathan Greig
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Sep. 24, 2019