September 12, 2019

US denies temporary protected status to Bahamian hurricane survivors

US denies temporary protected status to Bahamian hurricane survivors

The White House announced on Wednesday that it will not grant temporary protected immigration status to people evacuating from the Bahamas after the archipelago was devastated by Hurricane Dorian.

The status—granted previously by the US to refugees of wars and natural disasters—would have allowed Bahamian evacuees to live and work in the US while their country recovers from the devastating effects of the recent hurricane.

An estimated 2,500 people are feared to be missing since the Category 5 hurricane made landfall; at least 70,000 people have been left homeless.

“Population movement is a natural way to deal with climatic shocks, particularly when livelihoods are destroyed,” says Linguère Mously Mbaye, a senior research economist at the African Development Bank and IZA World of Labor author. “Migration can be considered as an adaptation strategy when disasters occur because it helps mitigate the adverse effects of climatic shocks by providing new opportunities and resources to affected people.”

Lawmakers in Florida, the US state closest to the islands and home to the largest population of Bahamians in the US, requested that the US president grant temporary protected status to the thousands of evacuees making their way to the US to allow them to live with relatives.

President Trump claimed to reporters on Monday that the Bahamas has “tremendous problems” with allowing “very bad people” into the country and has “very bad drug dealers.” He said that any people going to the US from the hurricane-ravaged islands would need to have the proper documentation before they were allowed to enter the country.

Mbaye feels that “addressing the issue of climate change requires better governance on a global scale, with more efficient aid allocated to vulnerable countries as well as better migration policies toward migrants from those countries. Migration in the aftermath of climatic shocks or natural disasters should not be perceived as a threat for many reasons,” she says. “First, most migrants move internally or to neighboring countries. Second, due to the prospect of remittances, migrants can help those left behind to deal with shocks. Finally, migration remains a human right, above all in the case of disasters related to the climate. Migrants should thus be received and integrated into host societies, for the benefit of all.”