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Haitians in the Bahamas

  • Profile

    A significant minority of migrant Haitian workers live in the Bahamas, principally in the islands of New Providence, Grand Bahama and Great Abaco. Fleeing poverty and repression at home, their number is estimated between 20,000 and 70,000.

    The majority work in service-sector jobs, in hotels and construction, on farms and as gardeners, labourers and domestic workers. Most speak Creole and many live in squatter camps with limited sewage, garbage collection , law enforcement, or other infrastructure.

    According to unofficial estimates, between 10 and 25 per cent of the population are Haitians or citizens of Haitian descent, making them the largest and most visible ethnic minority. Many persons of Haitian origin lived in shantytowns with limited sewage, garbage, law enforcement, or other infrastructure. Haitian children generally were granted access to education and social services, but some Haitians complained of discriminatory treatment in education.

    Anti-Haitian prejudice and resentment over continued Haitian immigration is common. It is felt that anti-Haitian attitudes are the result of efforts by the authorities to stem the steady influx of illegal Haitian migrants, and public positions adopted by local politicians to try to appear tough on immigration.

    Historical context

    Tourism represents about 50 per cent of the gross national product.

    Haitians have been migrating since the 1960s, but numbers increased dramatically in the late 1980s and 1990s. Of these, most were illegal immigrants.

    The frequency of incidents of violent eviction increased with the recession of the early 1990s and the election of a Free National Movement government in 1992.

    Current issues

    Haitians are conspicuous and have frequently been targets for harassment and forced repatriations.

    Inter-ethnic tensions and inequities continue to persist, and in the opinion of some observers have even escalated. Members of the Haitian community in particular continue to complain of discrimination in the job market. They point out that identity documents and work permits are controlled by employers who use the threat of deportation as employment leverage.

    Discrimination in education is evident as children of Haitian parentage who are born in the Bahamas are required to pay the tuition rate for foreign students while awaiting the processing of their request for citizenship.

    Human rights organizations continue to claim that some Haitians with legitimate fears of persecution are repatriated without any opportunity to claim asylum. This results in limited requests for asylum processing. Furthermore those requesting asylum processing lack access to legal counsel. The government continues to deny that its screening processes are inadequate.

    The Department of Immigration reported that in 2005 approximately 3,200 persons were repatriated to their home countries. No asylum was granted during the year.

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