Bahamian bishop urges respect for Haitian illegal immigrants

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The Rt Rev Laish Boyd used his presidential address to the 116th synod of the Diocese of the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Islands to urge the nation to welcome migrants from Haiti to the islands.

Speaking on 21 Oct 2019 at Christ Church Cathedral in Nassau, Bishop Boyd urged Bahamians not to look down on Haitian immigrants, and urged the government of Prime Minister Hubert Minnis to halt deportations of illegal Haitian immigrants.. The tone of the debate had gotten out of hand, he noted. 

“Some of the rhetoric and extreme language I have heard thus far — those supporting the migrants and those who are not — is extremely provocative, and not helpful to the cause of harmony in our country,”

The Minnis government has come under fire from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for deporting Haitians in the wake of the September’s Hurricane Dorian that devastated the Abacos and Grand Bahama.

“The topic of migration is an extremely hot topic worldwide, and Hurricane Dorian has pushed the issue to the forefront of our national agenda all too suddenly, once again,” Bishop Boyd told synod,” the bishop said, noting “Our country could very easily get a ‘black eye’ from the international community if we do not make a most valiant effort to get it right. We are indeed a sovereign nation and we expect the world to appreciate this fact. However, the world will ‘mark the manner of our bearing’ in immigration matters, in particular.”

Bahamians must stop saying that Haitians, “come and take while giving little or nothing to the country,” the bishop said, adding, “this is simply not true.”

Haitians were not a drain on society’s social capital, he argued. “Their work ethic is very good. They have a keen sense of family life and look after their children in the vast majority of cases. They attend PTA meetings, when many of us Bahamians do not; many of their children excel academically because that is a priority in their homes.

“My brothers and sisters, let us be honest and realistic, and let us find ways to live together in peace and harmony as God, who made us all, would have it,” Bishop Boyd said, 

“We would all want to ‘get this right’ as we work to secure our borders, as well as to treat humanely the migrants in our midst, whether they are documented or not. The way we treat others who are different from us is a true mark of our Christianity …” Bishop Boyd told synod.

The 116th synod runs from 21 to 24 October 2019.