Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Kirk Humphrey says six children who were in the group of Haitians evicted from a St James apartment on Tuesday now have accommodation, as he dismissed calls for the minors to be “picked up” by child care authorities.
He told members of the media on Friday that Child Care Board (CCB) investigations had found that the minors were being housed by members of the local Haitian community.
Addressing the issue at a press conference to launch Child Awareness Month 2022, Humphrey said that since Barbados TODAY broke the story that the Haitians were in search of new accomodations, he has been receiving several calls from people “casually asking me to go and tell the Child Care Board to go and collect children”.
He assured that while the CCB would ensure the children are safe while they are in Barbados, it was not that agency’s mandate or practice to “just collect children”.
“The Child Care Board receives children when families are unable to provide for the children or when there is a need to protect a child,” Humphrey said.
“And in all cases, the Child Care Board tries first to work with the families to see if they can make sure the family stays in that location, the child stays in that location. That is how the Board operates.”
Humphrey stressed that neither the Haitian children nor the adults with them were here illegally and they would therefore be treated accordingly.
“They came into the country, they went through the immigration process. Like a European visitor or an American visitor if they fall on hard times, I don’t expect people to be calling me asking me if I am going to go and pick up the American children or if I am going to go and pick up the European children,” the Minister said.
“If there is a case where they need to be assisted, then we will assist. But I have no intention of saying that that is the approach the Child Care Board should take . . . . The responsibility of the Board is to make sure that . . . when they are here, as they would for any other child, that the children are safe, make sure that the children have proper housing. Now if that is the circumstance where they don’t have those things then you would intervene differently.
“I can see no reason for different treatment for a Haitian visitor as opposed to a European visitor or an American. If fact, if there were going to be different treatment it would certainly not be to the disadvantage of the Haitians,” Humphrey insisted.
The group from the French-speaking CARICOM nation was evicted from the apartment they had called home for the last two months while they awaited visas for onward travel to Guyana and Brazil.
The trip was arranged by a travel agency that has so far been unsuccessful in securing the visas.