Bahamian Hurricane Refugees Not Allowed on Florida Relief Ferry

Loren Elliott/Reuters

CPB blames the ferry company and the ferry company blames U.S. policy. Normally only passports and police record suffice

Washington Post - September 9, 2019

"The refugees’ plight comes after bipartisan calls to waive all visa requirements for Bahamas survivors. On Wednesday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) and Sen. Rick Scott (R) wrote an open letter to President Trump urging him to allow in refugees with family in the United States. Eighteen other Florida lawmakers made a similar appeal."

Hundreds of Hurricane Dorian survivors crowded into a ferry anchored in Freeport, Bahamas on Sunday evening, after days on the sweltering islands with limited food, water and power. Just 2½ hours across the ocean, safety and relief waited in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Then, an announcement blared from the boat’s intercom speakers.

“Please, all passengers that don’t have a U.S. visa, please proceed to disembark,” a crew member barked in a video captured on board*.*

Since Dorian devastated the islands earlier this month, killing at least 44, hundreds of other refugees have reportedly come to the U.S. after going through a screening process with only a passport and proof of a clean criminal record. The more than 100 refugees forced to disembark Sunday night were baffled at to why they had been turned away.

“At the last minute like this, it’s kind of disappointing,” Renard Oliver, who held his infant daughter, told Brian Entin, a reporter for Miami TV station WSVN. “It’s hurtful because I’m watching my daughter cry, but it is what it is.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, however, says no rules have changed and laid the blame on the ferry operator, identified by local reporters as Balearia Caribbean, for not properly coordinating with government officials. Balearia Caribbean did not immediately return a request for comment.

“CBP was notified of a vessel preparing to embark an unknown number of passengers in Freeport and requested that the operator of the vessel coordinate with U.S. and Bahamian government officials in Nassau before departing The Bahamas,” the agency said in a statement shared with The Washington Post late on Sunday. ...
Read full report at Washington Post

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