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What started as a dream of moving to Guyana or Brazil for a better life is now a nightmare in Barbados for 34 Haitians who said on Tuesday they were now reduced to living “like dogs on the street”.
The visitors say they were ordered to pack their bags and leave the apartment at Wanstead, St James where they had been staying since landing in Barbados on February 20.
Suitcases and large plastic bags filled with personal belongings lined the driveway when Barbados TODAY visited the property.
As the visitors slowly lose hope of reaching their final destination, at least one of them is calling for a full refund of the US$4 500 which he paid to an agency contracted to take him and his compatriots to South America.
“I was put out today. The plan was not to come to Barbados, we are supposed to be in transit to Guyana or Brazil,” said a 19-year-old Haitian named Nelson.
As the now homeless youth contemplated their next move, some mounted their duffle bags and suitcases on their heads and trekked through the streets of the suburban St James neighbourhood.
Among them were six children and a pregnant woman. It is unclear whether the children are with their parents but, according to Nelson, they had no money to cover rent.
“Where will we sleep? We don’t know where we will sleep tonight,” he said.
“Once we get somewhere to put our things we can sleep anywhere. We can stand on our two feet if we have to, because we don’t have our mother in Barbados, we don’t have our father in Barbados. We don’t have money in our hands to rent a place to stay.
“The only thing the government can do for us is to come and get us out of this misery because we feel trapped. We are not capable on our own, anymore,” he added.
Sources close to the situation said the landlord had received $20,000 to accommodate the Haitians who were awaiting visas to enter Guyana. However, over two months into their stay, a “travel agency” going by the name MPH, has been unable to secure the visas, leaving the Haitians in limbo on an indefinite stay in Barbados.
Residents said a dispute over the rent payments had been brewing for weeks between the landlady and officials from the agency, but a recent payment of $3 000 was believed to have appeased the property owner.
Hopes were high last week when sources revealed that a charter flight would take the Haitians out of Barbados. It is unclear whether they were headed to South America or returning to Haiti and why it never materialised.
Nelson said his intention was to continue school in Brazil and one day become a professional footballer. He then accused two people in Haiti, “Pedro” and “Ms Angela”, of lying to them about the terms and conditions of the journey.
“They took our money totalling US$4 500. They took it in Haiti. They came and dropped us here, dropped off our suitcases and left us here. They have dropped us here like dogs on the street, like people who have no guardians,” said the teen.
“We feel humiliated with what happened today. They have no money, no place to go and just want to go back to Haiti. If they are not getting the flight then they want Pedro and Ms Angela to return their money so that they can go back to Haiti. We did not leave Haiti to be robbed. They worked hard for their money and want their money back in order to return home,” said Nelson.
The landlord was not present during Barbados TODAY’s visit, but sources said the locks on the doors had been changed.
In the meantime, residents have been raising serious questions about the legality of the landlord’s actions and about the safety of the young people at the centre of the controversy.
Some residents contacted the office of Home Affairs Minister Wilfred Abrahams, CARICOM Ambassador David Comissiong, Minister of Foreign Trade and MP for the area Sandra Husbands, the Barbados Police Service, the Child Care Board and other state agencies.
“To be honest, I feel like the Government of Barbados has turned a blind eye and we talk about CARICOM integration and CARICOM unity and if Bajans were stranded in another country, we would not want to open the newspaper and see that Bajans were being treated like this,” said one resident.
“Bajans leave here every day and go to places to make a better life and the same way you would want our people to be treated, we should be able to treat people with some kind of dignity. This is the complete opposite of dignity,” said the resident with tears streaming down her face.
Nearly a month ago, migration expert Dr Olivia Smith warned that a decision to deport the CARICOM nationals or meet their basic needs would be a breach of international conventions. She said the Haitians were “obvious victims” and ought to be treated as such by law enforcement and immigration officials.
Shortly after, Minister Abrahams visited the property “to verify that the visitors were not being held against their will or in substandard accommodation”.
Since then, Barbados TODAY understands that the Haitian Association of Barbados had been assisting with food items and other necessities. [email protected]
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