$19,200 wasted to transport untested migrants to Ragged Island
29 untested illegal Haitian migrants boarded a Bahamasair flight from Ragged Island to Haiti today amid public outcry and costing struggling taxpayers in excess of $25,000.
HMBS Nassau picked up the migrants from the US Coast Guard last week and transported them to New Providence where they were held for a few days at the Coral Harbour Base before being transported to Ragged Island on Saturday via HMBS Lawrence Major.
The group included 10 women, 14 men and five minors, including a one-year-old and a three-year-old. One of the women is pregnant and in her third trimester.
The HMBS Lawrence Major was 10 miles out of New Providence when it was called back to the Coral Harbour Base to pick up the 29 migrants - who were not tested for the coronavirus - then transport them to Ragged Island. The Gallery was told 4,800 gallons of fuel, costing $19,200, was wasted just to get them into Ragged Island.
The government then wasted another $6,000 to charter a 30-seater aircraft to fly a magistrate, a court clerk, three immigration officers and two social workers from New Providence to Ragged Island to process the Haitians.
The migrants could have been processed at the base and flown from Nassau to Haiti, which would have prevented the need to have HMBS Lawrence Major use $19,200 in fuel to transport them to the island or the need for a $6,000 charter flight. However, the Gallery was advised that National Security Minister Marvin Dames handed down strict instructions not to process the Haitians at the base but to send them to Ragged Island instead.
The wastage of taxpayer dollars continued today when a Bahamasair aircraft flew from New Providence to Ragged Island to pick up the migrants and repatriate them to Haiti.
The HMBS Lawrence Major had 30 crew members and an additional 15 officers to provide security.
Between Wednesday (when the migrants were picked up from the Coast Guard) and today (when the migrants were repatriated), 45 Defence Force Officers and Bahamasair crew members were exposed to migrants who were screened but never tested to determine if they are infected with the coronavirus.
Ragged Islanders were so furious at the thought of being exposed to outsiders that they travelled to New Providence to protest outside of the Prime Minister’s Office last week. Their member of parliament Chester Cooper also cautioned the government to reverse the “ridiculous move” but to no avail.