Preying on vulnerable Haitians

Ambassador David Comission.
Photo by George Alleyne

In tandem with Barbados’ acknowledgement of the rights of Haitians to enter the island like any the CARICOM citizen, crooks have begun defrauding the already bedevilled nationals of this Caribbean territory.

Stories coming out of 15 Haitians currently stranded in Barbados are that they were tricked in to handing over between US$2,500 to $3,000 to fraudsters who made them believe that with the opening of the island’s borders to them as CARICOM citizens, they could travel there and easily secure good jobs.

With this tale of the proverbial ‘milk and honey’ existence in Barbados the human traffickers who are said to be resident in the Dominican Republic, the neighboring state that shares the island with Haiti, placed them on flights to Barbados and abandoned the hapless hopefuls.

Having arrived between November and December, the Haitians found the reality to be that the right to enter Barbados for an automatic six-month stay as CARICOM nationals did not include a right to work, and that anyhow this island is currently in the throes of economic adjustment in which some of its own people are being laid off, so there was no place for recruitment of overseas labour.

Their little money ran out resulting in them being evicted from a rental premises and having to be rescued from the streets by a Good Samaritan Pastor, David Durant, then furthered on the Salvation Army.

“It was 1 am and I heard they had been evicted so I left home and opened up the church. It was cold, I could not leave them out there,” Durant told the Nation newspaper.

Local media houses have publicised their plight with and appeals for assistance ranging from food to accommodation, and money for flights back to their homeland because the return dates on their airline tickets had passed.

This meant that on Jan. 1, when many people were celebrating the anniversary and symbolism of the Haitian 215th anniversary of independence as a successful fighter against oppressive forces, some nationals were stranded in Barbados and throwing themselves to the mercy of the authorities or anyone who could help.

The human traffickers twisted information coming out of Barbados when following elections in May 2018 the new government declared that a discriminatory practice by its immigration officials of demanding visas from Haitians to enter the island must stop immediately.

Upon discovering the anomaly, Home Affairs Minister Edmund Hinkson said in September, “It should not have been on in the first place. I was shocked to learn that.”

“If Haiti is a member of CARICOM and the Treaty of Chaguaramas speaks to non-discrimination and equal treatment, how can you have put visa requirements on Haitians? Why do we do this to our own people?”

Government lifted the restriction within days of its discovery.

A spokesman for the stranded group said, “I heard it was not a problem to come to Barbados without a visa,” he said. “When you arrive at immigration you have to say that you are coming to visit, so they gave us six months.”

Reports are that one of them managed to find work illegally, but in an extension of their nightmare, the employer has refused to pay that person for his labor.

Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM, David Comissiong told the Barbados Today newspaper, “a number of the Haitians who are coming here, are poor people who have been misled, who have paid out this money and are coming to Barbados, believing that there is some job waiting for them in Barbados. This is not true”.

“What we are finding is that there seem to be some unscrupulous persons in Haiti and perhaps in the Dominican Republic as well, who are misleading Haitians, and taking money from them.”

A few donors have come forward but while the Barbados government scrambles to help, this island must brace itself for an inflow of trafficked Haitians, preyed upon by unscrupulous operators bent on twisting immigration information to exploit those whose circumstances make them gullible to any story of a better life away from their homeland.

Pastor David Durant.
Photo by George Alleyne

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