Investigative Reporter Brian Entin in Miami for News 7 WSVN, reported via Twitter on Sunday, that refugees fleeing the Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian were told if they did not have a U.S. Visa, they needed to leave the ferry that was due to take them to Florida.
Big problems on the ferry from Freeport to Florida — announcement just made that any Bahamian without a visa must now get off. This is not normal. Nornally Bahamians can travel to USA with passport and a printout of their police record. This is a mess. pic.twitter.com/DESUm2qBGE— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 8, 2019
Hundreds like Renard Oliver and his baby now have to get off the ferry from Freeport, Bahamas to Florida. He was trying to evacuate — told he could leave with Bahamian passport and police record like normal but then ferry crew says US Goverment called and changed plan last minute pic.twitter.com/vhBkSgBlKF— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 8, 2019
Another announcement just made ordering any Bahamian without a US visa to disembark ferry — not allowed to evacuate. They were told before boarding it was ok with Bahamian passport and clean polce record. Something has now changed. pic.twitter.com/m7CnZxoiMM— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019
A little more from crew on the ferry. They say they were told it was ok to accept Bahamian evacuees with passport and copy of police record. They boarded boat. Then when they sent manifest to US Customs and Border Patrol — they were told those without visas would not be accepted.— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019
Newsweek reported Sunday U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency’s Florida office issued a statement that said they were not responsible “for forcing dozens of Bahamians fleeing the devastation of Hurricane Dorian to disembark from a rescue ferry headed to the Sunshine State because they did not have U.S. visas.”
The private ferry Baleària Caribbean offered their own statement on Monday evening.
Just received @Balearia statement:— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019
“We boarded these passengers with the understanding that they could travel to the United States without visas, only to later having been advised that in order to travel to Ft. Lauderdale they required prior in-person authorization from the…
immigration authorities in Nassau.— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019
In coordination with U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection (CBP), our Company is informing all Bahamian residents of the required travel documentation necessary for travel to Ft. Lauderdale. ”
Florida Republican Senator’s Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, sent a letter to President Trump on Wednesday last week, asking that the Administration suspend certain visa requirements for those displaced by the hurricane.
#Florida has deep ties to The #Bahamas. Many Floridians have family living there.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) September 4, 2019
Today I will be asking the Trump Administration to consider suspending certain visa requirements for citizens of The Bahamas displaced by #HurricaneDorian & with close relatives in the U.S.
Florida House members also sent President Trump an open letter requesting the same on Friday.
Hurricane Dorian has left our neighbors in the Bahamas devastated. Today I sent a letter to @POTUS urging him to suspend visa requirements for citizens of the Bahamas so they can seek shelter with relatives in the United States. Read my letter here: pic.twitter.com/qvjfI9FVnx— Rep. Brian Mast (@RepBrianMast) September 6, 2019
President Trump was asked on Monday ahead of his campaign rally from North Carolina about the confusion regarding the Bahamian refugees.
President Trump said, “So we are talking to a lot of different people on that. You know, we’re recovering from the hurricane, also.”
He added, “we have to be very careful. Everybody needs totally proper documentation, because look the Bahama had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t suppose to be there.”
He continued, “I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers.”
CNN reported on Monday, that an estimate 4,800 Bahamians have been evacuated, while another 70,000 have been left homeless.
The death toll has risen to 45 confirmed dead, but officials caution that number is expected to rise in the coming weeks.
In light of the confusion that left 119 people stranded on Island, Bahamas’ National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is asking for the Bahamas’ government to investigate the incident.