• Gallery Staff

GB Ministry of Health staff may be responsible for another wave of community spread

Officials from the Ministry of Health on Grand Bahama could be in the hot seat after reports of them releasing several undocumented immigrants into Immigration hands with no real knowledge of their COVID-19 status has begun surfacing.

Sources for The Gallery have revealed that a privately chartered plane flew from Nassau carrying five Haitian nationals and landed at the airport in the nation’s second city. Health officials there, upon inspection of the passengers, found that they had no documents stating their legal status in the country nor did they have any paper work stating that they had been tested for COVID-19 and that those tests were negative.

Police on the island were called in and the group were subsequently turned over to Immigration officials, however the pilot was reportedly allowed to leave before law enforcement arrived and has since returned to the capital. It is unclear if he was able to present the required health documents for travel.

It is also unclear how the immigrants, who had a total of $10,000 between them, came to charter the flight or why they chose to fly into Grand Bahama. Sources speculate that it was a human smuggling operation and that the intent may have been to purchase travel by private boat into Florida.

It is understood that the five undocumented Haitians are being detained in open cells at Immigration headquarters on the first floor of the C.A. Smith Complex. That building also houses several other government agencies including the Passport Office, Customs and offices for the Ministry of Education. Like most office buildings right now, it is open to the public and according to The Gallery’s sources, only the officers involved in the group’s apprehension are aware of their untested status.

Those sources say this incident echoes a similar one The Gallery reported on several months ago where some 30 undocumented Haitians were being detained - without their COVID-19 status known - between two open cells at the same Immigration office. Details of their apprehension and detainment were seemingly being kept hushed back then as well. Fears of possible community spread from that incident had many on the island up in arms when that story was revealed. Sources say the same thing is happening now.

The incident has reportedly left the Immigration officers charged with care of the group concerned for their own health as they say they still do not have the proper protective gear to wear and instead only have cloth masks to try to keep the virus at bay.

Immigration Department protocol dictates that two officers be assigned to each detainee for their entire stay in custody. This also brings into question those officer’s right to overtime pay, which has been a bone of contention previously.

It is not known at this if a probe into this matter is being directed.

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