A group of stranded Haitians has not only run out of money, and is appealing for assistance with funds to purchase tickets to return to their homeland, but some of them are being exploited.
Barbados TODAY understands that some of the Haitians who came to the island looking for work, have found employment, but are not getting paid.
This development has angered former Government Senator and Chairman of the National Assistance Board (NAB), Reverend Dr David Durant, who told Barbados TODAY that he is currently trying to assist a young man who worked on a construction site for ten days, in accessing funds from a contractor who has been refusing to pay him his money.
The young man who speaks little English, told Barbados TODAY that he has been calling the contractor who has been rejecting his calls. He said he knows he should not have been working, but only did it to help himself because he has been on the island for almost five months and ran out of what limited money he came here with, weeks ago.
“I don’t think it is fair for people to be so low in their particular situation, and for us to push them lower, or push them further into the mud, by exploiting them. I think that is very unjust and unfair, and if these situations are true, I would really want to appeal to those persons who are doing it, to desist from doing such a thing.
“If you are having people come and work, and because you know of their plight, you can refuse to pay them, and they can’t do anything about it, then you are exploiting their energies and their work and their labour, without giving them a cent. So I want to appeal to anyone involved in this practice to stop it because we have a few that we have to deal with, and one is here right now on our premises who is asking me if I can get the money from the person that he worked for.
“So I plan to go to the person and I am going to ask them if they can pay, and if I have to get the law involved to ensure that he can get the money, that is what I will do, because it is over a BDS$1000 that he is owed from what he said,” Durant explained.
Over the past few weeks, the story of a group of Haitians who were evicted from the Bonnetts, Brittons Hill, St Michael home they rented, has been highlighted in the local media. The young men, between the ages of 21 and 36, who were rescued by Durant and taken to his Restoration Ministries Church where they rested and were fed, were offered shelter at the Salvation Army Church’s Reed Street hostel, where they have remained.
However, the frustrated Haitians who paid between BDS$2500 and BDS$3000 to come to Barbados on the promise that work and accommodation would be provided for them, have been living a nightmare. Not only have some of them run out of money and are unable to feed themselves, but while some of them want to return home, they are unable to, because they cannot purchase the tickets.
Last week, Dr Durant and Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM David Comissiong appealed to Barbadians to gave monetary donations to help purchase the return tickets.
However, Durant told Barbados TODAY this afternoon, that he would like to make a fresh appeal for help, since only one individual come forward with a donation of BDS$1000, some of which has already purchased a return ticket for one of the men who is expected to leave the island on Wednesday. Seven of them are still hoping for more money to come in so they too would be able to return home.
“I don’t know how I got involved in this so deeply. I came out to rescue the group from being exposed to the early morning elements, and here I am now dealing with a situation that I did not anticipate. I find that they are all coming back to me, and more are even coming. Yesterday, six of them came to the church during service. These are young people who came here under the false notion that Barbados has jobs and also accommodation for them after paying exorbitant sums of money to an agency, and have discovered that they were really fooled.
“It is important therefore that something is done to help the situation at this time. I have asked for help from fellow Barbadians. I know that some of the stranded Haitians have appealed to some of their families back in Haiti, to help, but some of them are very poor as well, and are unable to do so, and hence they are still stranded here. I am waiting on other contributions to come in. If people can give BDS$100, BDS$200, BDS$300, they don’t have to give a $1000 if they don’t have. But whatever they can give, every little bit would add up, and we would be able to get more tickets, and we would be able to help the others,” he said.
“Some of the guys don’t have any money at all. When they come here, of course, we have to give them something to eat because they are hungry. We experience that on a daily basis as they come. That is really their condition right now. What they came with has been exhausted. So it is for us to get them back, since in the six months they have to visit, work is prohibited. They cannot work,” Durant added.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Comissiong said while he does not want Barbadians to feel as though Haitians are coming to the island to be a burden on people, he believes that an appeal should also be sent to Haitians in Haiti and those in the diaspora, to make donations.
Ambassador Comissiong said it was unfortunate that when Barbados and other Caribbean countries lifted the visa requirement for Haitians, that the Haitian Government did not disseminate public education to explain to the people of that nation that the lifting of the visa requirement does not mean that Haitians could simply come and work in Barbados, or that jobs are readily available here.
“The Haitian people need to be given the correct information as a matter of urgency, because we are having this regrettable situation where a number of Haitians are coming to Barbados believing that they can work, and that there are jobs readily available when this is in fact not the case. I am trying as much as I can to urge the Haitian authorities to implement such a public information campaign. And I have been communicating with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Haitian Ambassador to CARICOM, and to Barbados’ Honorary Consul in Haiti.
“If the correct information doesn’t get to the Haitian people, we are likely to see more cases of Haitians coming here, thinking they can work, finding that they can’t work, there are no available jobs, and therefore ending up asking Barbadians to assist where they can,” Ambassador Comissiong said.