NASSAU, The Bahamas, Tuesday September 26, 2017 – The Bahamas is the latest Caribbean country to open its doors to Dominicans.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis extended the offer to his Dominican counterpart Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit as they held brief talks in New Providence on Sunday.
He said schools would also be accepting Dominican students.
“There would have been a lot of children that would have been displaced, and therefore we are opening our school system to accommodate them,” Dr Minnis told Skerrit.
“Our Immigration Minister would deal with that matter so that they can be placed within our school system.”
Stressing that The Bahamas was a caring nation, he also appealed to citizens to open their homes to temporarily house their displaced Caribbean neighbours severely affected by Hurricane Maria.
“I’m sure we have a lot of Bahamians out there who would assist in accommodating these individuals, both financially and otherwise.
“Then there are a lot of Dominicans here who would also have families there, and therefore we would accommodate those individuals also. They would contact their families to come to The Bahamas, and we would make it happen,” Prime Minister Minnis said.
Minister of Immigration Brent Symonette signalled he was wholeheartedly behind the move, insisting that it was The Bahamas’ Christian duty to assist Dominica in its time of need.
“It could be us one day, too. For us to extend a loving, friendly hand to a Caribbean sister nation, if people have a difficulty with that, we cannot justly call ourselves a Christian nation.”
A grateful Skerrit welcomed the offer, saying it would help a lot of Dominican families if children were allowed to return to school in The Bahamas.
He acknowledged that several other countries have made similar offers and explained that CARICOM would be coordinating that exchange programme.
“Once we have the list of schoolchildren whose parents will allow them to leave we will certainly pass this on,” Skerrit told the Nassau Guardian.
Meantime, in a brief update on the ongoing process, Skerrit told the Bahamian officials that four Bahamians living in Dominica escaped the impact of the storm and were fine.
“They are fine,” he said, noting that three of them were university students. “The area where the university is did not get any major impact.”
Skerrit however reported that for thousands of Dominican, the situation remained “grave and precarious”.
He said the immediate focus is to provide food and to ensure everyone has temporary shelter so the country can get on with the rebuilding exercise.
“We have to settle people who are homeless. Our preoccupation now is to get as much food supply and water to every household in Dominica. We will be pushing this. We are getting additional helicopter services because many of the communities are inaccessible by road,” Skerrit said.
“Some also have to be accessed by fishing boats. So we are using all means to take supplies to the people and to ensure that they are properly nourished and hydrated.”
Acknowledging that it be a “long and difficult road to normalcy”, Skerrit stressed that Dominica could not do it alone.
“Certainly over 100 per cent of our GDP has been washed away, blown away,” he said.
“It will take a long time. We have to build homes for people, infrastructure and schools. We have to build health clinics. Our hope and prayer is that the international community will reach out to us, because clearly we cannot rebuild our country alone.”