Dialogue Between Minister Henfield and Haitian Charge d’Affaires Brutus

In the group photo, pictured: Minister Darren Henfield, second right; and Haitian Embassy Charge d'Affaires Anthony Brutus, third right. Also shown, from left: Deputy Permanent Secretary Eugene Newry; Former Ambassador to Haiti Captain Godfrey Rolle; High Commissioner to CARICOM Reuben Rahming; and at right, Permanent Secretary Peter Deveaux-Isaacs. (BIS Photos/Kristaan Ingraham).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Bahamas informs the general public that, 17 May 2021, the Hon. Darren A. Henfield, MP, Minister of Foreign Affairs, received Mr Anthony Brutus, the Chargé d’Affaires, ad interim, of the Embassy of Haiti in The Bahamas, at the Ministry’s Headquarters for a frank and productive dialogue. The matters addressed were the most topical issues of the day between Haiti and The Bahamas, namely, with respect to the extension of the restrictions on travel originating from Haiti and the related situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, the consideration of a revised visa facilitation for Haitian nationals wishing to travel to The Bahamas, the demolition of unregulated housing in Abaco, and the recent pronouncements at the Ministerial level on living and social conditions in Haiti.

Minister Henfield clarified the need for the extension by the Bahamian Government of the suspension of travel from or transit through Haiti, which he associated to The Bahamas joining the global effort to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. He advised that The Bahamas, as was the majority of countries in the region and around the world, was actively implementing a vaccination programme to coincide with the safe travel of Bahamians, residents and tourists alike and the re-opening of the domestic economy, an endeavour that would yield maximum returns through a collaborative industry. The Haitian Chargé informed that he would consult with his Government on the means through which Haiti would join The Bahamas in this effort and return to normal the aviation movement between the two countries.

With respect to the expressed concerns in obtaining Bahamian visas using the current visa process, the Minister informed the Chargé that there were a number of technical issues with the online process that needed to be rectified. The process would resume thereafter. The Chargé proposed a review of the existing visa facilitation for Haitian nationals with Canadian, Schengen, UK and US visas, which would allow for a beneficial increase in travel by Haitian tourists to The Bahamas; the Minister returned that he would have the proposal reviewed.

The Minister reiterated the position of the Government of The Bahamas as regards its laws on land ownership and use – including parameters for construction of housing – and reminded of its adherence to the judgement of the courts and government policy on the construction of unregulated housing. He recalled that the actions undertaken by the Government were made very public in advance of execution, including on the need for the joint support of the Department of Social Services, concerned non-governmental organisations and the well- established Haitian community. Speaking from his vantage point, he returned to the all-around complex situation and experience with Hurricane Dorian, starting from the national and personal calls for the unconditional access to and use of shelters before, during and after the storm’s passage by all residents in Abaco. He bade the Chargé to call on all of his Embassy’s broadest connections to safeguard the interests of the people in the Haitian Diaspora in The Bahamas and to look out for their welfare. The Chargé took on the charge to work closely with the Minister and the Bahamian Government in bringing the necessary and desired attention to these matters.

As regards the recent pronouncements by certain Government Officials, the Minister acknowledged that the views as expressed were unfortunate, but they no doubt were reflective of the close-knit Bahamian-Haitian relations, at the familial and social levels. He expressed regret for the same and asked that the Chargé convey the same to his authorities.

The meeting ended with the promise of a renewed consideration of examples of other areas favourable to the enrichment of the bilateral relations, particularly through collaboration in people-to-people exchanges in educational and cultural activities. Also present at the meeting were Mr Peter Deveaux-Isaacs, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; His Excellency Reuben L. Rahming, High Commissioner to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM); and Captain Godfrey Rolle, former Ambassador to Haiti.