The stranded Haitian men who were moved to the Salvation Army’s City hostel after they were evicted from the Brittons Hill home they were renting are being allowed to stay there as long as they have legal status to remain in Barbados, and once there is room, Divisional Commander Major Darrell Wilkinson has told Barbados TODAY.
Nine of the 15 men who were evicted were moved to the hostel last Saturday evening.
Wilkinson said that while the Salvation Army welcomed the stranded visitors, in keeping with its international mandate to feed and cloth the poor and assist refugees, once the six months’ visitors stay expires, they would not be able to stay at the hostel because they would be considered illegal immigrants.
Major Wilkinson said: “My captain who is dealing with the matter shared with me that David Comissiong [Ambassador to CARICOM], is trying to get some assistance for these Haitians to get them back to their homeland. As far as I am aware, some want to go back for sure, some want to stay to get work because things are difficult in Haiti, but that is not our portfolio here at the Army. We are just here to give assistance with housing for the time being. I will leave the rest for Mr Comissiong and his team to work on.
“We will give as much assistance as we can give. But as for how long they are going to be here, I just don’t know. They can only stay as long as the Government gives them permission. Whenever their six months is up then they would have to go back, and some of them have already gotten close, they are just a matter of weeks away from that.
“But the Salvation Army has opened its doors, which is something we do not only in Barbados, but also around the world. We have quite a few centres around the world for persons who are seeking accommodation, within the rules and laws of the country.”
The men, who said they came here in search of a better life, reported that they were the victims of a scam where they paid between US$2,500 and US$3,000, to an agency in Haiti, with the assurance they would receive accommodation and jobs when they landed in Barbados.
But upon arrival, they found no jobs and had to pay for accommodation. They have since exhausted their finances.
They were evicted from the house at, Brittons Hill, by landlord Anthony Mayers, who told Barbados TODAY that he was fed up with the condition the house was being kept in. The landlord also complained that while he charged the men $1,300 including light and water, within one month, the water bill alone had reached $1,200.
After they were put out on the streets, the men were rescued by former Government Senator and Chairman of the National Assistance Board, Pastor David Durant, who took them to his Restoration Ministries Church where they were accommodated and fed until they were moved to the hostel.
Pastor Durant said he visited the men, who are between the ages of 21 and 36, at the hostel yesterday, and three of them informed him that they were willing to go back home, and requested financial assistance to buy return tickets to Port-au-Prince.
He told Barbados TODAY: “I am working with an agent who is working with Copa Airlines to see how we can get the three of them back to Haiti as soon as possible. Two of them want to leave on Saturday, and the next one is asking to go two weeks later. They said they want to go because they are not finding any jobs here, they have run out of money, and they think it is best to return home where they can try to make things a little easier for themselves.
“They are very thankful for the help that is being offered by the church. Right now the three of them are here and I am waiting for the agent to call me back with some information.
“So far, I have received $1,000 donation from a kind-hearted Barbadian. When I hear from the airlines, then I would know exactly what I am working with. I am hoping that the $1,000 can do for those who want to go on Saturday, but if it doesn’t, the church will put the difference. The challenge now is to get the rest home when they are ready. I am making an appeal to Barbadians to assist. I will speak with a lawyer about setting up a fund to assist them.”