Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas with incredible force last week, leaving many Bahamians without homes in the natural disaster. Thousands of people have been displaced and, in the search for shelter, are trying to seek refuge in Florida.
In the past, Bahamian refugees fleeing destruction needed only a passport and printout of their police record to travel to the U.S. In a video taken by reporter Brian Entin, however, many Bahamians are seen being forced out of a Baleària Carribean ferry because they don't have a visa.
Big problems on the ferry from Freeport to Florida — announcement just made that any Bahamian without a visa must n… https://t.co/bqpa7HJbRm— Brian Entin (@Brian Entin) 1567986289.0
Hundreds like Renard Oliver and his baby now have to get off the ferry from Freeport, Bahamas to Florida. He was tr… https://t.co/XAFNa7Utu9— Brian Entin (@Brian Entin) 1567986794.0
Another announcement just made ordering any Bahamian without a US visa to disembark ferry — not allowed to evacuate… https://t.co/ZJ9XMzXNVd— Brian Entin (@Brian Entin) 1567987367.0
After the videos went viral, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson Michael Silva issued a statement saying there had been some sort of a misunderstanding with the crew of the ferry.
He claims his office had told the ferry they would have to take the refugees to Nassau to receive proper documentation before proceeding to the U.S. (more than has been necessary in the past), but that the ferry responded by throwing many of its refugees off the boat.
Ferry staff now going around checking passports. There are hundreds of Bahamians on here. People are in shock. Hund… https://t.co/QPM0umduom— Brian Entin (@Brian Entin) 1567988084.0
This is what I’m learning from passengers: normally Bahamians can FLY to the USA with their passport and a clean po… https://t.co/oIR5OR9N8u— Brian Entin (@Brian Entin) 1567988248.0
Silva expressed regret to Newsweek at the situation.
"It breaks my heart because it's like when you raise somebody's hopes and then you pop the balloon... That, in my opinion, is what Baleària did. It raised 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."
Just now getting service - still at sea with a connection in Bimini before arriving in Fort Lauderdale. Just reache… https://t.co/KULWflJKbU— Brian Entin (@Brian Entin) 1567994987.0
Silva has noted that the CPB is prepared to work with any of the many private companies who are working to transport Bahamians away from the destruction, including the 1,200 people aboard a Grand Celebration cruise ship that recently arrived in Palm Beach and were processed without incident.
"We would have definitely worked with this transportation company or any other transportation company to...facilitate this process. CBP is not denying or discouraging evacuation efforts and we empathize with the plight of the Bahamian people."
So they all lined up and waited for hours to board this ferry. (See my tweets from earlier) when we were about to leave, something changed.— Brian Entin (@Brian Entin) 1567988294.0
In the case of this particular ferry, however, Silva noted the Baleària's staff had reached out on very short notice, and were even charging passengers a somewhat exorbitant fee (as opposed to the Grand Celebration, which transported refugees for free).
"I believe they were charging about $150, which is not inexpensive because I think airfare is about the same. It was a for-profit cruise. It wasn't a humanitarian mission."
A little more from crew on the ferry. They say they were told it was ok to accept Bahamian evacuees with passport a… https://t.co/ACDdLjJDtO— Brian Entin (@Brian Entin) 1567997418.0
What is interesting is cruise ship Grand Celebration evacuted more than 1000 Bahamians Friday and they did not requ… https://t.co/9sWswtJYi3— Brian Entin (@Brian Entin) 1567997737.0
The CBP is taking as many steps as it can to make clear Bahamians are not being turned away due to lack of visas.
Just got official statement from Customs and Border Protection. https://t.co/P1EIQz9nc1— Brian Entin (@Brian Entin) 1568008483.0
Just interviewed @CBPFlorida when we got off ferry in FL. They say they would have accepted and processed the Baham… https://t.co/sQTKfXMGsd— Brian Entin (@Brian Entin) 1568015425.0
Many on Twitter have responded to the footage with vitriol and outrage.
@BrianEntin Anyone agreeing with this and calling themselves Christian are just wrong about both. And if they are r… https://t.co/HQLyRNTBYE— Max Burbank (@Max Burbank) 1567988879.0
Some Twitter users noted the forces which have strengthened many recent hurricanes have gone unaddressed by the U.S.
@BrianEntin @maggieNYT God forbid that the US accept a refugee, especially one from an area destroyed by a storm ma… https://t.co/mOIAXppNIt— SalMidwest (@SalMidwest) 1567991299.0
@BrianEntin Climate refugees being turned away— a weapon to surpass metal gear (@a weapon to surpass metal gear) 1568000075.0
Whether this incident was the fault of the U.S. government or a private company, immediate steps should be taken to ensure it doesn't happen again.
@BrianEntin This is disgraceful and not my America. If you still don’t believe that elections have consequences, th… https://t.co/pqZi7wzNRR— SKeveryday (@SKeveryday) 1567988544.0
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