By Rachel Belt
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) — The Haitian government on Thursday expressed concern that convicts, born in The Bahamas to Haitian parents and deported to Haiti from the US, could end up engaging in criminal activities for survival, in the Caribbean country they never knew before and where they often have no family ties left.
The Haitian secretary of state for public safety, Reginald Delva, said the government has a lot of difficulty dealing with convicted criminals deported to Haiti after having immigrated to the US from The Bahamas, where they were born.
“We fear that those convicts, who had access to a different living standard, would see criminal activities as their only alternative for survival when they get here,” Delva told HCNN in an interview on Wednesday.
“The issue for individuals of Haitian origin, born in the Bahamas and deported from the US, is that they had never been in Haiti before, they don’t speak Creole and they don’t have or know anybody in Haiti,” Delva said.
According to the Bahamian constitution, children born in The Bahamas of foreign parents do not automatically have Bahamian citizenship. Children with such status have to wait until they reach their 18th birthday to apply for citizenship, which itself can be a lengthy process.
Haitian officials say the Bahamian government has persuaded the US to deport the ‘stateless’ criminals to Haiti rather than to The Bahamas. Efforts to reach Bahamian authorities for comment were unsuccessful.
“You imagine someone who is used to committing crimes and to having access to money who finds himself penniless in a country where he steps foot for the very first time,” Delva explained.
Job opportunities in Haiti are already very rare for those who live in the country and chances are even more unlikely for deportees because of their criminal record which often makes their potential employers skeptical.
Delva said the Haitian foreign affairs minister will officially discuss the matter with Bahamian and US authorities.
“We need to find a way to solve the problem because those individuals were not born in Haiti, they grew up in the Bahamas or the US,” said Delva.
“They do not have Haitian documents, they have learned to commit crimes in these countries, not in Haiti,” Delva told HCNN.
Bahamian officials say around 40,000 Haitians live in The Bahamas, which has a population of over 350,000, but other organizations believe the Haitian community counts nearly 80,000 people.
Many of the people of Haitian descent have been living in The Bahamas for generations and have no connections with the country their ancestors used to call home.