Published: Tue, September 10, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Dozens of Bahamas evacuees told to get off ferry headed to US

Dozens of Bahamas evacuees told to get off ferry headed to US

"It was like an atomic bomb went off", said Sherrie Roberts, who was on the Abaco Islands when Dorian struck a week ago as a Category 5 monster, then lingered for days over the same wrecked places.

On Sunday night, about 130 individuals seeking to evacuate the Bahamas were kicked off a ferry heading to the Florida.

Florida's two Republican senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, have asked the Trump administration to waive any visa requirements for residents of the Bahamas who wish to enter the U.S. In a September 4 letter to the president they wrote: "This will allow citizens of the Bahamas, who have low visa overstay rates, to stay with family in the United States while the country rebuilds in the wake of Hurricane Dorian's unprecedented destruction".

A ferry boat run by Balearia is pictured in a file image taken in Port Everglades on May 6, 2015 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Current US policy allows Bahamian residents travelling to America by air to enter the country without a visa as long as they have a passport and proof that they do not have a criminal record.

CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan said that what unfolded at the Freeport terminal was the result of confusion because of so much going on in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

Shelters were housing about 1,100 people, officials said.

He was quoted as saying that the body count is not the priority.

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The Trump twitter post noted that Coast Guard (USCG), FEMA has been helping the victims along with many other countries including moving people from the worst-hit parts of the Bahamas to safer areas.

But Customs and Border Protection spokesman Michael Silva told WSVN that Balearia, the ferry operator, did not properly coordinate the evacuation efforts with the American Embassy, the Bahamian government and the US Agency for International Development. "At the last minute like this, it's kind of disappointing".

Speaking with 7News on the phone, Jasmine Cooper, a passenger who was taken off the ferry said the experience was humiliating. "It's hurtful because I'm watching my daughters cry".

Stubbs was one of about 1,100 evacuees, who made the 72- nautical-mile (133 kilometres) journey from Freeport. On the other hand, "Everybody needs totally proper documentation".

This is not the first time Mr Trump has denounced migrants coming to the USA since he took office in 2016.

Evacuees wait for transportation to leave Marsh Harbour Port on Abaco Island.

This week, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke slammed the move to turn away Bahamians from the USA border, tweeting that it was the "height of cruelty". Hopefully, the people of the Bahamas will be able to rapidily recover from the disaster and restore the islands back to their full glory. "You have to be mentally stable because when you're seeing these things, and when people who lost loves ones are crying on your shoulder you can't break down on them", said one hazmat-suited Bahamian police office who could not give his name.

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