WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- On Sunday evening, dozens of Bahamian hurricane survivors were denied entry to a boat headed to the United States because they are not U.S.-visa holders.
- Despite being previously told that they can enter with their Bahamian passports and a clean criminal record, they were told by the ferry’s crew to get off the boat.
- Thousands of Bahamians are fleeing the massive devastation left by Hurricane Dorian that left so many residents without food and medical care.
Hurricane Dorian survivors were forced to disembark a ferry headed to the United States on Sunday after being told they weren’t allowed to enter the country without U.S. visas.
Previously, the evacuees were told they could enter the US with their Bahamian passports with a clean criminal record.
Despite 1,500 Bahamians who have already entered the U.S. earlier last weekend, dozens on the Bahamian Freeport ferry on Sunday evening had to stay behind. A woman alleged that about 130 people had been told to get off the boat.
In a video recorded by Brian Entin, a WVSN-TV reporter, a crew member was heard saying to passengers who don’t have a U.S. visa to leave the boat and remain in the Bahamas.
“Please, all passengers that don’t have a U.S. visa please proceed to disembark,” said the crew member.
The passengers were trying to escape the wreckage caused by Hurricane Dorian that left thousands without access to food, water or medical care. Although thousands have reportedly evacuated to the islands’ unharmed capital city of Nassau, or Florida, the incident on Sunday was quite different.
Renard Oliver, who was cast out from the boat, told Entin, “It’s kind of disappointing and hurtful because I’m watching my daughter cry — but it is what it is.”
However, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency said that Bahamian passport-holders can enter the U.S. without a visa and that the evacuees should have been permitted to stay on the ferry. The agency blamed the Baleària Company that operates the ferry, telling Entin, that the incident was solely due to the company’s “business decision”.
CBP spokesperson, Michael Silva, told Newsweek that Baleària did nothing but “to raise the expectations of these poor people who have been through an unimaginable situation with the hurricane. … They raised their expectations only to then leave them terribly disappointed.”
The indignation didn’t end on the boat, either. Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke viewed the U.S.’s moves on Sunday’s situation, “the height of cruelty,” adding that, “It’s on us to prove we’re better than this.”
While many were utterly devastated about the incident, it remains unclear if or when the rejected passengers will manage to evacuate again.