Residents of the Bahamas who have been made homeless by the effects of Hurricane Dorian were told over the weekend that they could evacuate temporarily to the United States via boat, only to later be told they could only do so with the proper visa documents.
The announcement came aboard a ship, as reported by WSVN reporter Brian Entin via social media, telling hundreds aboard that they could not flee the devastation on the islands without first having a visa to do so, CNN reported.
Such documents are not traditionally necessary for residents to have. According to the U.S. Customs website, an individual flying to the U.S. via the Bahamas doesn’t need a visa, but merely needs a passport in order to do so.
One individual describing the scene (and herself told to leave the ship) said 130 individuals were told they had to stay on the islands, after being initially told their documents were acceptable for transport. After they were told to get off, only about 200 people remained on the boat, she added.
That’s it. We’re leaving — all Bahamian evacuees without a visa taken off. The Bahamians who remain are in shock. No one understands why the rule was changed at the last minute. The parents and kids now stuck on the island. pic.twitter.com/Jvd3D6MTZW
— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019
Several weighed in on the matter, including Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who blasted the administration’s handling of the situation.
“This is the height of cruelty — denying help to those who need it most,” O’Rourke said.
On Saturday after the storm hit, President Donald Trump gave himself and his administration pats on the back for doing a job well done with regard to aid to the Bahamas.
“Thank you to Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis for your very gracious and kind words in saying that without the help of the United States and me, their [sic] would have been many more casualties,” Trump wrote.
At least 45 people have perished due to Hurricane Dorian battering the islands, and the death count is expected to rise. Around 70,000 have been made homeless in the Bahamas due to the storm, and hundreds remain missing.