ROSEAU, Dominica, CMC – Two Caribbean countries Friday relaxed the visa requirements for Haitians entering their countries as the region continued to react to the powerful earthquake that hit the French speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country on Tuesday.
National Security and Immigration, Charles Savarin announced Thursday that government had taken a decision to extend the stay of all Haitians already on island by an additional six months until the situation in Haiti stabilizes.
“Those who are here, they should go to the immigration authorities and have their stay extended by six months in light of the developments which have taken place,” he said.
But as the Haitians gathered outside the Immigration Office in the capital, the public relations officer with the Dominica Police Force, Inspector Claude Weekes, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) the Haitian nationals would have to comply with most of the immigration measures as they sought to regularise their status.
“We need to be very careful that even if the National Security Minister extended a hand of assistance, it does not mean that the immigration laws of Dominica are going to be suspended.
“It will be done in an approved manner by following the law within the legal framework to assist the Haitians,” Weekes said, noting that the EC$50(US$18.50) fee and the return ticket were no longer required.
Many callers to radio talk shows had earlier raised concerns that many of the Haitians would not have been able to meet the fee and produce a valid return ticket in order to have their stay extended.
Meanwhile, The Turks and Caicos Islands said it has taken a decision to temporarily suspend the deportation of Haitian nationals found to be residing illegally in the British Overseas Territory.
“ All the usual border control and surveillance measures will of course remain,” the government said in a statement, adding “to those people from Haiti living in the Turks and Caicos Islands we extend our sympathy at this very difficult time as they wait for news of loved ones in Haiti”.
Jamaica said it was also bracing for an influx of Haitian fleeing their country.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Major Richard Reece, said that government agencies have come up with an action plan to respond to the situation.
“All the agencies responsible for surveillances, screening and processing have been alerted. What we ask is that if the public identifies refugees either arriving or in their community that they make a report to the local police.
“Following that, the reception team will be assembled to screen and process, which is very important especially as it relates to the medical examination of the individuals,” said Reese, adding that temporary location had already been identified to house the Haitian.
Haiti was rocked by a powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday leaving a trail of death and destruction.