National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) officials emphasized Monday that no special arrangements have been made to facilitate the entry of Bahamians affected by Hurricane Dorian into the United States.
The announcement came after crew of the Balearia Caribbean Ferry demanded that passengers without a U.S. visa disembark the vessel, prompting the exodus of reportedly 100 or so people, The Tribune reported.
“It’s hurtful because I’m watching my daughter cry, but it is what it is,” one person told Brian Entin, a reporter for Miami TV station WSVN who was on board the vessel.
During a press conference Monday morning, NEMA spokesman Carl Smith said: “NEMA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to advise the public that there are no new arrangements that have been established to facilitate entry of Bahamians into the United States or Canada. Bahamians interested in traveling to the United States or Canada should ensure that they have all of the usual immigration documents required by those countries for entry. While most inquiries have come in respect to movement to the United States or Canada, NEMA can confirm that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not aware of any new arrangements for any other country. We are aware of an incident reported on a large passenger vessel headed to the United States from Florida. NEMA has requested that the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs investigate this matter.”
Bahamians traveling to the U.S. can do so with a passport and a clean police record.
Last week, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott asked President Donald Trump to waive some visa requirements for Bahamians following Hurricane Dorian and to make it easier for them to seek shelter with their families in the United States.
Scott, in a statement, called on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to work with the Bahamian government to clarify rules regarding visas in the Bahamas so confusion does not occur.