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August 13, 2008



"The Punch goes on to claim that in 10 years there will be more Haitians than Bahamians in this country. .... the end result would be just over 100,000 in a projected total population of almost 400,000 by 2020."

When it comes to assumptions and speculation it's natural to round up or even double numbers and the thought of 1 in 4 people being a Hatian is something that many Bahamians will not be comfortable with.

"...the Bahamas is for Bahamians - not a bunch of illiterate, illegal foreigners..."
I both agree and disagree with this.

1. Illiterate:
In a sense, The Bahamas is NOT for many Bahamians because many of us are illiterate and innumerate and many who can read and write still lack comprehension and communication skills. Meanwhile a large portion of the people with the brain and willpower to take our country forward have no intention of coming back 'home'.

2. Illegals:
It's like the preacher more concerned about sending the gays to hell instead of sending his congretation to heaven. There are more important things to fix. Things like...

3. Foreigners (in general):
Some want to send illegal and legal Hatians back (no matter how much work they do and money they save for us) while we GIVE AWAY EVERYTHING WE HAVE (land, money, business, beach access) to legal and illegal foreigners of a lighter skin color who are ALREADY RICH.

"A guest worker programme would be able to meet our labour needs in a managed way, providing for basic housing to avoid the growth of shanty towns. Haitians working outside of this programme would be subject to deportation and their employers prosecuted."

Sounds like a plan.


Great article, Larry. Thanks.

Niurka Pineiro

In conducting the study, IOM/COB took great care in preserving the confidentiality of the respondents and in fostering an effective working relationship with the Haitian embassy and resident community.

A review of the executive summary of the report identifies a number of areas for suggested improvement on the government's part: e.g., regular development and reporting of data; shortcomings in the labour permit mechanism and approach; continued isolation and lower economic status of the Haitian migrant community; the need to investigate claims of abuse and corruption where they occur.

The IOM/COB effort was an attempt - successful, in our view - to generate significant new data where it was lacking. The study attempted to identify the practical effects of government policy up to that time and, in so doing, suggest initiatives to be considered.

Dawn Marshall’s comments come from an informed and respected authority as she did the last major study on the Haitian community. Marshall’s work was carried out over many years and is a classic reference in this area. However, as she points out, the 2005 study is far wider in scope than hers and represents the largest ever study on the Haitian community in The Bahamas.

IOM/COB worked very hard at getting the trust of every respondent, and some interviews took up to 2 hours. The success of this approach is evident in that IOM/COB were able to engage many people who were residing illegally and so had everything to loose by assisting us. It should be noted that immigration officials continued to make raids on the Haitian community during and after the study. Although the raids were not connected with the study, some data collectors received negative feedback from respondents as they perceived there to be a connection. Raids during the pilot study clearly discouraged participation.

All studies are limited. In this case, there were clear terms of reference and IOM/COB needed to adhere to them in order to complete the project close to the allotted timeframe. One can always do more, and in this area where so little research has been done there is always a tendency for people to want any report to answer all possible questions.

With respects to comments about “the 'structural' and/or unwritten policy deterrents to Haitians getting jobs, attending schools, getting permanent residency or citizenship”. these matters were not in the terms of reference of the study but are alluded to in the report. Also, some of these issues are not unique to Haitian nationals, but because of their numbers, they are the most commonly affected. Granting citizenship is a very delicate subject.

The report does not directly describe the contribution of the Haitian community to The Bahamas, but it does throw some light on this issue. For example: the section on occupational skills.

Data from the Department of Statistics, “Occupations and wages report 2003-2004”, published in 2005, shows that for elementary occupations Bahamians work for 38 hours a week at $7 per hour while “non-Bahamians” (which can be read as Haitians) work 39 hours a week at $5 per hour. This corroborates the claims made by respondents in our study that they are paid less than their Bahamian counterparts.

The IOM/COB survey attempted to use neutral language throughout as it was trying to provide information which could be utilized by policy makers. As the media review shows, where there is no research opinion is fueled by emotion and prejudice.

The IOM/COB hoped that the findings from the study would inform government policy towards migration in general, and not just Haitians.

As was pointed out when training the data collectors, the study was not singling out the Haitian community because it consisted of “Haitians”, rather it was focusing on this community because it was the largest migrant group. The report suggests that government should have a unit to monitor migration from all communities .

Bob Knaus

Well. That last comment provides an answer to the question "How much is it worth to be a Bahamian?" Turns out to be 2 dollars an hour.

Is that more than most folks expected? Or less?


Well, the other way to look at $7/hr instead of $5/hr is that you are paid 40% more if you are Bahamian.

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