Thursday 6 August, 2020

Efforts underway to locate 33 Jamaicans in The Bahamas - Johnson Smith

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is trying to make contact with 33 of 48 Jamaicans whose families have asked for assistance in locating their relatives in the hurricane-ravaged Bahamas.

Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, made the disclosure on Friday while giving an update on the status of Jamaicans living and working in The Bahamas, the northwestern section which took a direct hit from category five Hurricane Dorian nearly two weeks ago.

According to officials, at least 50 people have been killed and over 1,000 are reported missing.

The slow-moving hurricane devastated the Abaco Islands and large parts of Grand Bahama Island, leaving at least 73,000 people homeless.

Telecommunications and electricity supply were also disrupted and large areas remain underwater.

Johnson Smith said some 1,500 Jamaicans live and work in The Bahamas.

“I can say that we have received requests to locate 48 persons and we are pleased to say that we have located 15 who are in good health and in different locations.

“And we continue to make efforts to locate the others,” she told fellow senators on Friday as the Upper House resumed sittings after the summer break.

Johnson Smith, who is also Leader of Government Business in the Senate, said the matter is complicated by the fact that The Bahamas is not necessarily registering persons by nationality.

“So when persons have been evacuated they have just been evacuating based on vulnerability and based on location, they’ve just been moving people out.

“There’s now underway a more detailed engagement and assessments at the human level,” she said.

However, Johnson Smith cautioned that there are certain sensibilities because of the immigration issues with which The Bahamas contends.

As it relates to Abaco Islands, Johnson Smith said: “We had estimated prior to the hurricane that we had approximately 1,500 Jamaicans there working and perhaps a few more in Grand Bahama…but in terms of any formal register, there is none.”

“Accordingly, we really have to be working with the community, circulating names, taking names where persons call and say ‘we’ve heard from this person, or we know this, or this person has been in the shelter,” Johnson Smith explained.

She said the situation is as challenging for the Jamaican authorities as it is for The Bahamian authorities.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Affairs Minister said Jamaica’s honorary counsel in The Bahamas, Terrel Butler, has provided a list of 32 Jamaicans known to have been evacuated.

She said Butler was helping to identify family and friends who have contacted the Ministry and also helping to coordinate relief efforts with Jamaicans on the ground and to identify Jamaicans who have been affected by the hurricane and may need assistance.

Also, she said a Jamaica national has opened a private building for persons needing assistance and that mattresses, food and other supplies have been provided to 21 persons, including children.

Additionally, Johnson Smith said Jamaican doctors in Nassau are also making themselves available to assist.

She said the ministry was working closely with the honorary counsel to determine the type of assistance that may be required - including persons in need of urgent travel documents, communication with their families, and other needs on the ground.


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