by Larry Smith
In the wake of the most recent shanty town fire (off Joe Farrington Road) we witnessed yet another impassioned outpouring of Bahamian angst - on the air waves, across social media land and around lunch tables and water coolers.
These feelings are encapsulated in a single Facebook comment: "Haitians are having children by the dozen. At this rate we will become a minority in short order."
And this is not just street-level hyperbole, even level-headed talk show hosts like Jeff Lloyd, a lawyer and a deacon, articulate the same fear.
"There is a good possibility that within one generation you won't be able to find a large population of indigenous Bahamians," he thundered on one show last week.
Well, let's look art the figures.
Out of our total population of 351,000 there were about 290,000 Bahamians according to the 2010 census. In other words, the Department of Statistics counted 61,000 non-Bahamians living here. That number includes 5600 North Americans, 1700 South Americans, 1700 Asians, over 5,000 Jamaicans and about 3600 Europeans of all nationalities.
But most of the non-Bahamians were, of course, Haitians - some 39,000 in fact, or 11 per cent of the total population.
Over the past decade our total population grew by about 16.5 per cent, or 50,000, while the declared Haitian population grew from 21,000 to 39,000 - a more than 40 per cent increase. However, in 2005 using a variety of methods, the International Office of Migration estimated an actual population range for the Haitian community of 30-60,000.
Every time something happens that focuses our attention on Haitian immigration there is an outpouring of fear and loathing, but rarely is there any attempt to clarify the issues.