More than 100 Bahamians have been denied U.S. entry while trying to flee the island after it was severely damaged by Hurricane Dorian.
In a series of tweets, Brian Entin, an investigative reporter for WSVN, shared videos of dozens of evacuees being turned away from the ferry traveling from Freeport, Bahamas, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
That’s it. We’re leaving — all Bahamian evacuees without a visa taken off. The Bahamians who remain are in shock. No one understands why the rule was changed at the last minute. The parents and kids now stuck on the island. pic.twitter.com/Jvd3D6MTZW— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019
“I have to take my baby off. At the last minute like this, it’s kind of disappointing. It's hurtful watching my daughters cry,” Renard Oliver, father and Hurricane Dorian evacuee, emotionally told WSVN.
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
Originally, people were told that they could board as long as they had a Bahamian passport and clean police record, however, a last minute announcement was made at the terminal stating that they needed a U.S. visa.
While ferry crew members have blamed U.S. Customs and Border Protection, government officials claim that the boat company, Baleària, made a “business decision” to remove evacuees.
Customs and Border Protection Acting Port Direction Stephen Silvestri told WSVN that no government entity was preventing people from entering the country.
“I think it’s important to note that if those folks did stay on the boat and arrived, we would have processed them, vetted them and worked within our laws and protocols and done what we had to do to facilitate them,” Silvestri said.Entin, who grew up in South Florida, also reported on social media that all the people he spoke to that were being kicked off the boat only planned to visit the U.S. temporarily “to go grocery shopping, stay in a hotel with AC...and then head back.”
More than 70,000 people in the Bahamas have been left homeless a week after the Category 5 storm ravaged the island. The death toll has risen to 45 and is only expected to climb, according to CNN.
As reported by USA Today, sanitation is rapidly becoming a concern as thousands seek shelter wherever they can. This includes many people from The Abacos and Grand Bahamas Islands, which were among the hardest hit areas.
Lifelong Bahamas resident Alannah Vellacott, 29, told USA Today that “homes everywhere have been emptied out of their contents.”
“Morale is low as we are still waiting on mass relief and volunteers willing to help us clean up, rebuild, take care of our sick and wounded,” Vellacott told USA Today.
Among those who’ve pledged to provide aid to the Bahamas includes Rihanna, Tyler Perry, Lenny Kravitz and Ludacris.