Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Some stranded Haitians still ‘on rocky road’

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A number of the Haitians who were stranded in Barbados in 2022 still remain here including three children who have been unable to reunite with their parents.

Marie Etienne, president of the Haitian Association of Barbados (HAB), who has assumed responsibility for the children, said she was also unable to get two girls – a 14-year-old and 15-year-old – placed in the public school system.Giving an update on the 30 Haitians who were left stranded in Barbados after paying a local travel agent US$4 000 to travel from Haiti to Brazil with intransit stops in Barbados and Guyana, Etienne said: “The majority are pretty much settled in Barbados and contributing meaningfully to the Barbadian economy and society. They have not become a burden on the state, but are pretty much an asset as good CARICOM nationals,” as she advised that the minister responsible for immigration and related agencies might be in a better position to give a status report.However, she expressed concern about the three children who were still in her care. They are two siblings which includes an eight-year-old boy and their cousin.“I was able to get the boy placed in a primary school, but I have not been able to get the girls in a secondary school,” she reported.Etienne revealed that she was informed by an official at the ministry that she would have to provide them with legal documents relating to their guardianship.Pointing out that she did not have the financial means to undertake that legal process, Etienne said she had resorted to home-schooling the girls.“We were told from the very beginning when they were evicted from the apartment, those who qualify to do the CARICOM skills certificate to reside and work can go through the process to do so and the children would be allowed to attend school in Barbados. That was announced clearly by the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Wilfred Abrahams.“However, when I reached the Ministry of Education, I was told by an officer, how can a minister who was not part of the Ministry of Education make a decision for the ministry . . . . So the children have been practically denied an education and the Child Care Board is on me for having the children . . . not attending school; but thankfully, our attorney is assisting me in that regard.”Assessment testIn addition, Etienne said the children were also supposed to undertake an assessment test at the ministry but the same officer informed her shewould need to provide proof of guardianship from the law courts.Etienne, who pointed out that she lost her job during the COVID pandemic, said it was an uphill battle trying to get the children reunited with their parents.“These kids with me they were bound for Chile. Their uncle is still here but he did not have space to accommodate them. The mother is in Haiti and their father is in Chile trying to get them over there, but the pesos is way less than the Barbados dollar so he doesn’t make that kind of money to afford all the things that need to be done, so it is kind of tough. They are lovely children . . . and brilliant, so I am getting them to do school work and to learn English and prepare them for whatever else may come in life.”

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