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Better in the Bahamas? Not if you’re Haitian

Sunday, July 28, 2013
Hundreds of Haitians remain homeless after a raging fire destroyed more than 50 homes in Nassau last Monday.

His home in flames last Monday night, top priority for 74-year-old Lucien Janise was to snatch up his passport. “Everything burn, everything gone… The only thing I could save was my documents, that’s it. No clothes, no nothing.” Perhaps 50 mainly wooden houses burnt down on one night in a Haitian shanty town in the Bahamian capital, Nassau. At least 121 people from the 400-strong ghetto community on Joe Farrington Road were left homeless, maybe more. 


Some residents suspect an arson attack, aimed at clearing the property. A pastor, Celiner St Louis, says men were seen jumping over a nearby wall to set a house on fire. Flames moved fast from one small house to the next; but in a jumble of close-packed wooden structures, there are many other ways a fire could start and spread.


Nobody died, but life is hard for the survivors. “I don’t have nothing to eat,” Lucien Janise told the Nassau Tribune. “I sleep in somebody house on the ground last night. I retired, I do not work. I just get residence and I only saved my passport.” Says St Louis: “People lost their clothes, passports, work permits and birth certificates.” The prosperous Bahamas are a few days by overcrowded boat from impoverished Haiti. Controls on migration are tight, but there has for decades been a steady stream of illegal migrants. 


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