NASSAU, The Bahamas, Guardian – As he laid out a part of the government’s plan to assist Dominican children and their families today, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis choked back tears as he recounted the devastation that Hurricane Maria unleashed on the small island nation and expressed shame at the vitriolic response of some Bahamians to his pledge to assist Dominican students.
“My government proposes to temporarily relax the immigration laws for a number of school children from Dominica who wish to continue their education in The Bahamas,” said Minnis while addressing the House of Assembly.
“Permits to reside will be issued to students from Dominica who, with the approval of parents, wish to study in The Bahamas.
“There are three categories of students who may apply.
“One, children who have relatives in The Bahamas and who can find lodging and support from their family members.
“Two, college students who may wish to study at The University of The Bahamas and seek boarding at The University of The Bahamas.
“Three, children of parents employed in companies, banks, etc., which have offices in The Bahamas. Temporary employment transfers can be arranged with these institutions.”
Minnis did not indicate how many students will likely be accommodated in The Bahamas.
He said the government will continue to appraise the general public on other details related to assisting children and young people from Dominica.
He said the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of The Bahamas, the Anglican Diocese of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands and The Bahamas National Baptist and Missionary Education Convention have offered their educational assistance for students from Dominica.
Minnis said he is also encouraged by the support of private citizens who have offered tuition, uniform and housing assistance.
He said he will lead a team to Dominica on Monday to assess the damage there. He added that the government will also send a Royal Bahamas Defence Force boat with supplies.
The prime minister challenged those Bahamians who have a difficulty with the government offering aid to Dominica to imagine how they would want their Caribbean neighbors to respond if they found themselves in the position that many Dominicans are now in.
“Dominica, Mr. Speaker, has experienced an apocalypse,” Minnis said. “At least 15 people have died, with the death toll likely to rise.”
Hurricane Maria lashed Dominica last week as a Category 5 hurricane, ripping off roofs, severing telecommunications and devastating the small island.
Minnis said The Bahamas must do the Christian thing and offer relief and support.