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Child abuse cases increase by 87%

Officials say incidents a continuing trend following pandemic By EARYEL BOWLEG Tribune Staff Reporter ebowleg@tribunemedia.net REPORTS of child abuse soared 87 per cent in 2023 compared to 2022, a continuation of what officials say is an increase in child abuse following the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, there were 319 reports of child abuse related to physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, incest, neglect and abandonment. In 2023, there were 409 reports related to these categories. Year-over-year, physical abuse reports increased by 55 per cent. Sexual abuse reports rose by 39 per cent. There were 113 reports of physical abuse and 128 sexual abuse reports in 2023. There were zero reports of incest in 2022, but 13 reports in 2023. Reports of neglect declined from 141 to 137. There were 40 reports of educational neglect in 2023, a category not tabulated in 2022, according to statistics the Department of Social Services provided The Tribune. Likewise, there were 21 reports of suicidal ideation in 2023. The Ministry of Social Services launched Child Protection Month last week during a press conference. Charlamae Fernander, acting director of Social Services, said about 150 children are in protective care throughout New Providence, Grand Bahama and Cat Island. Minister Myles Laroda said officials seek suitable foster and adoptive parents for children in protective care who cannot be reunited with their biological parents. Ms Fernander encouraged people to adopt older children as well, not just infants. “I know that’s something that would raise some eyebrows,” she said. “That’s a key time in their lives, when they are six, seven, eight, nine, ten, or pre-adolescent, adolescent, etc., to really turn the tide in this country and ensure that they become well-adjusted members of society. “I want to encourage persons to reach out to them, as those children are as much in need of love and protection and support as any other child. So, I think we need maybe a little bit of a shift in perspective, and in focus, and consider these children’s needs to be placed also.”

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Feeling the life of the disabled

EDITOR, The Tribune. AS a highly educated qualified legal professional to be discriminated against due to my paralysis by my chosen profession is not only perplexing but very disappointing and extremely hurtful. What amplifies the situation is that as a father-of-six I’m unable to make a proper living and adequately take care of my responsibilities. From early childhood I’ve always been different. Fat and bowlegged I always bore the brunt of fat jokes, but coming from an extremely large family that was par for the course. Don’t think for one minute that I was unbothered, nothing could be further from the truth it hurt immensely, but I learnt to bottle it up inside and carry on smartly. I say that is to say that I was used to being singled out, overlooked, ridiculed and a non-participant in many activities. These experiences made me determined to be just one of the crew and I did all I could to fit in. When I attended St Andrew’s, oh so many years ago, all boys in the senior school were required to do “the run” which was approximately a mile and a half, but due to my obesity I was exempt. I couldn’t take that I was singled out and I chose to participate probably to the annoyance of many as what should have taken 15 minutes max took me twice that. But my life experience surrounding my obesity was nothing compared to the discrimination I now face as a paralysed person. The experience itself is hard enough to come to grips with, I suffer from anxiety and bouts of severe depression. Life goes on all around me whilst I’m bedridden and have to watch for the most part as life goes by and, or, live vicariously through the eyes of others. So being able to practice my given profession is one of the few things that makes me feel whole, and makes me want to carry on every day. I’ve been suffering under this medical condition now for almost five years and for the most part I’ve learnt to cope. One can only imagine the ignominy of a very proud man to have to endure the assistance of a caregiver to assist me with the most basic and personal of daily functions. And still that pales in comparison to the rejection I feel now. Article 26 of the Constitution guarantees me a right to make a living and the Persons With Disabilities Act 2014 codified the protection of disabled persons. Despite that I am unable to in this advanced technological age practice in the criminal courts. My paralysis prohibits me from attending court in person and that’s viewed as an impediment to an accused person as it’s said I’ll not be able to properly communicate with my client during the trial. To that assertion I say: “bovine defecation”. In order to secure my rights, and bear in mind I am not seeking special treatment but rather only the respect of being treated fairly and equally, I have had to launch a constitutional motion to access the same. In 2024, this isn’t right. My body is suffering from an infirmity, not my mind as my mental acuity has as a result sharpened. I’m distressed and I feel broken, but life is a challenge and we must find the intestinal fortitude to push on through. So why do I have to utilise the legal process to get that to which I’m entitled and to which I’ve earned? Discrimination is real, people, and I’m realising that the disabled are a second or third thought. Just recently, the Eugene Dupuch Law School has a distinguished lecture with the present and three former Chief Justices. This could have been so easily streamed online, but here again despite me making this suggestion prior to the event no provisions were made. This is the life of the disabled. Cast aside. My good Bahamian people you must do better. A very sad and dejected attorney speaking my mind. CRAIG F BUTLER Nassau, April 6 2024

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Deltec’s big damage from FTX investor ‘Gatling gun’

By NEIL HARTNELL Tribune Business Editor nhartnell@tribunemedia.net A BAHAMIAN bank and its chairman have blasted aggrieved FTX investors for employing “a Gatling gun approach” that has inflicted “tremendous damage” on their financial services reputation. Deltec Bank & Trust, and Jean Chalopin, in an April 2, 2024, filing that again urges the south Florida federal court to dismiss a long-running class action lawsuit, both asserted that the former crypto exchange’s clients behind the claim had merely fired off “a barrage of baseless conclusions” in the hope that something will stick. However, the Bahamian financial institution and its chairman argued that the claims “miss their mark completely” while again asserting that the Florida court lacks jurisdiction over them. They argue instead that the aggrieved investors should instead “reinstate” their action and bring it before the Bahamian judicial system. “Plaintiffs employ a Gatling gun approach to pleading – wildly firing a barrage of baseless conclusions and implausible inferences at the defendants in the hope that something will hit its target,” their dismissal motion argues. “Plaintiffs’ allegations directed at Deltec Bank and Mr Chalopin, however, are blanks; a loud burst of irrelevant, editorialised and often patently false statements crafted to shock and fool the reader into believing commonplace banking activity is somehow evidence of participation in a wide-ranging conspiracy. It is not. “When the smoke lifts and the non-conclusory allegations are viewed in the proper context, plaintiffs once again miss their mark completely…. In short, the second amended complaint (SAC) includes nothing more than baseless and conclusory allegations deliberately crafted to cast Deltec Bank and Mr Chalopin in a false light and damage their reputations before the court and the public.” The class action lawsuit appeared to gain new life and momentum in mid-February after its proponents seemingly received fresh ammunition from the production of 7,000 pages of Telegram messages – many featuring the Bahamian bank’s executives – by Sam Bankman-Fried’s former girlfriend, Caroline Ellison. However, in their latest legal filings, Deltec and Mr Chalopin allege there is nothing to tie them to Florida that gives the US court jurisdiction over them. “There are no meaningful factual allegations (or any facts whatsoever) to support Deltec Bank’s or Mr Chalopin’s knowing participation in a conspiracy to assist FTX’s fraud,” the Bahamas-based duo allege. “Plaintiffs, therefore, rely on implausible assumptions, unsupported speculation and innuendo, and recklessly mischaracterised communications. Even a cursory examination of plaintiffs’ hyperbolic allegations (and even taking these allegations as true), however, reveals they are baseless (at best) and wholly fail to state any claims. “Plaintiffs’ claims against Mr Chalopin are the most straightforward examples. Plaintiffs base their alleged claims – civil conspiracy, aiding and abetting, and RICO – almost entirely on Mr Chalopin’s supposed lobbying efforts in The Bahamas to encourage the passage of laws favourable to the cryptocurrency industry, his attendance and participation at the ‘Crypto Bahamas summit’, and his alleged assistance to ‘the Bahamian government in drafting crypto-friendly’ laws ‘to attract digital asset start-ups and other crypto ventures to The Bahamas’. That’s it. “From that flimsy foundation, plaintiffs leap to the implausible and unsupported conclusions that Mr Chalopin’s intent was somehow to transform The Bahamas into a ‘sandbox for fraud’ and to pass laws that ‘helped FTX achieve [a] veneer of regulatory compliance’,” Deltec and Mr Chalopin continued. “According to plaintiffs, Mr Chalopin ‘surely knew’ FTX’s actual compliance with the new laws was ‘but a fig leaf’. What is missing entirely, however, are any facts needed to bridge the massive gap that exists between allegations that Mr Chalopin engaged in lawful lobbying and the unfounded conclusions that he did so with actual knowledge of – and for the purpose of aiding – FTX’s fraud or any other wrongful conduct.” Deltec and Mr Chalopin also argued that the class action lawsuit had failed to provide any evidence they were involved in a conspiracy with FTX and its founder, Sam Bankman- Fried, who was jailed for 25 years pre-Easter for masterminding the crypto exchange’s multi-billion dollar fraud for the simple reason that “no facts exist to support it”. However, the lawsuit and associated media coverage was said to have inflicted serious harm on both Deltec and Mr Chalopin. “The gaping holes in plaintiffs’ allegations are overshadowed by how shockingly inaccurate and reckless they are,” they argued in their motion to dismiss. “By mining and sculpting cherry-picked fragments from longer Telegram chat messages to fit their agenda, plaintiffs have erected a Potemkin village, the apparent purpose of which is to hide the weak- ness in their claims from the court’s view and to inflict as much reputational damage as possible on Deltec Bank and Mr Chalopin. “Indeed, plaintiffs’ allegations have caused tremendous damage to Deltec Bank, a long-standing institution in The Bahamas that has supported innovative and emerging industries as well as prominent businesses and individuals for more than 70 years.” Accusing the former FTX investors of misrepresenting and mischaracterising what they described as routine financial services transactions, Deltec and Mr Chalopin added: “Plaintiffs selectively mischaracterise message fragments from about 7,000 pages of chat messages and add a heaping dose of rank speculation and innuendo until they are satisfied they have, as best as possible, transformed standard day-to-day bank- ing transactions into an international conspiracy. “But this sleight-of-hand pleading tactic, which has caused significant harm to Deltec Bank and Mr Chalopin, should not be condoned. After plaintiffs’ baseless and speculative conclusions are properly setaside, the SAC(second amended complaint) does not come anywhere close to stating viable legal claims against either of them.” The class action lawsuit is alleging that Deltec “assisted FTX group with sidestepping, if not outright violating” Bahamian laws and the Central Bank of The Bahamas’ Know Your Customer (KYC) due diligence guidelines for onboarding new customers and accounts. It also claimed that Deltec executives copied and pasted the KYC questions from Citibank into a Telegram chat involving Alameda Research, Mr Bankman-Fried’s private trading arm that played a central role in FTX’s collapse, so it knew what it had to do to meet Citibank’s requirements. The lawsuit also alleged that Deltec helped Alameda “track its siphoning of FTX customer funds” through the accounts the latter held with the Bahamian bank, with incoming and outgoing wires totalling between $200m and $1bn on a regular basis.

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Soaring boat insurance ‘huge cost’ to Bahamas

By NEIL HARTNELL Tribune Business Editor nhartnell@tribunemedia.net ASTRONOMICAL boat insurance costs are having a “huge” impact on Family Island hotels and marinas through shortening the tourism season by a month and leaving many “empty” over the summer. Emanuel “Manny” Alexiou, the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board’s president, told Tribune Business that whereas resorts and marinas used to be “busy through” to the early September Labour Day holiday in the US most boaters now depart this nation’s waters in early August and do not return until early to mid-November. He explained that, for many owners, insurance costs meant it was simply too expensive to keep their vessels in The Bahamas during hurricane season. Mr Alexiou, also the Abaco Beach Resort’s proprietor, revealed that one Carolinas resident had informed him he was moving his boat from The Bahamas to Georgia this summer to save around $40,000 in insurance costs. Disclosing that insurance costs were an issue now on the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board’s “agenda”, he told this newspaper that the impact represents a “big cost” to this nation’s resort, marina and boating industries in terms of reduced business volumes and bookings during the summer months. “As for the boating industry, I think we in this survey found that airlift and related infrastructure were most, most important, and the high operating costs of doing business in The Bahamas and boat insurance, especially the fact most boaters have to leave at the beginning of August and not return to the beginning or end of November. That’s a big cost to The Bahamas in terms of occupancy,” Mr Alexiou said recently. Speaking subsequently to Tribune Business, he explained that owners face “add-on” insurance costs if they keep their vessels in this nation during peak hurricane season. This is because, “if the boat sinks or has major damage here, they will have to get to the US to fix it, so the extra cost of salvage and transportation adds on to it” and represent increased expenses that insurers factor into premium rates. “It’s a huge impact,” Mr Alexiou said of the now-typical August exodus. “There’s increased costs, like insurance for boats. If we can’t cure that, boats will leave in August and not come back until November. “I think a lot of those people in the past, before, would leave their boats here and pay people to keep an eye on them. Our obligation was to go in, make sure batteries were charged, the fridge was kept on – do it once a day – and that there was no water in the bilge. “Now a lot of boats leave. We have empty marinas and empty hotels for September, October and November, and part of August. When the boats are here they tend to have some people on them, and people in the hotel. It creates a bit of life in the restaurants and bars, and outside our gates as well,” the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board president continued. “That’s a huge impact. When I first came up here and got involved with the hotel, we were busy through September 5 and Labour Day. That was the last summer holiday with family and they kept their boats here. Now, they leave.” Besides peak hurricane season, Mr Alexiou said he felt part of the increasingly earlier exodus was also being driven by an earlier start to the school calendar in Florida. “As an Out Island Promotion Board, we have put this on our agenda,” he told Tribune Business, “and started to have discussions with local insurers to see what the issues might be and if they can approach US insurers and US yacht clubs. “What are they selling yachts for? The boating industry is wanting to have a vibrant place to go and have fun. Whether we can talk to salvage people here, or create a salvaging Bahamas fund, I don’t know. I only learnt this this year. “A Carolinas guy is taking a boat to Georgia because he’s saving $40,000 a year in insurance. That’s just to take it away from here at the beginning of August, and he can bring it back at the beginning of November or end of November.” Mr Alexiou’s concerns were backed by Peter Maury, the ex-Association of Bahamas Marinas (ABM) president, who told this newspaper: “August seems to be the time now. After COVID we had a good run where they stayed here all the time, but now with all the taxes and insurances and everything else it’s become difficult for these guys to do anything. “We know that in the hurricane season a lot of boats have to leave because costs have become so high that nobody wants to pay for that coverage. I don’t know how we fix that. We’ve talked to the insurance companies before about it. The insurance companies here are just brokers, not underwriters. I don’t know how that’s going to change. “Insurance period has just got out of control. Liability insurance, everything has just gone through the roof it seems like. There’s no offset. Everything is higher; higher insurance, higher taxes, so you just take the boat and take it somewhere where you can shut it down.” Mr Maury described higher insurance costs as simply “another nail in the coffin” as they were compounding increased taxes, such as VAT, and difficulties that visiting boaters were encountering in easily paying this levy and other fees, as well as the lengthy process to enter and exit The Bahamas.

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Police question man over alleged sexual assault of 13-year-old girl

POLICE in Bimini are questioning a 25-year-old man in connection with an alleged sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl. The incident occurred between February and March 2024. Meanwhile, Police in New Providence reported a 25-year-old man was hospitalized on March 14th after he was assaulted by another male in the Bain Town community. Reports revealed that shortly after 9pm the victim was near a bar on West Street when he was approached by an unidentified male who struck him in the head with an unknown object before fleeing the area. The victim sustained serious head injuries and is currently in serious condition at the hospital. In Grand Bahama, officers from the Royal Bahamas Police Force and Bahamas Department of Immigration arrested six illegal immigrants on March 14th. Preliminary reports stated that around 10.45 pm police and immigration officers arrived near Old Bahama Bay, where they searched nearby bushes and discovered three undocumented Haitians and three undocumented Brazilians. The illegal immigrants were detained by officers from the Bahamas Department of Immigration.

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Road repairs in 14 areas of New Providence completed

By LYNAIRE MUNNINGS Tribune Staff Reporter lmunnings@tribunemedia.net WORKS Minister Clay Sweeting gave an update on the country’s road repairs with 65 miles of arterial and community roads to be completed across New Providence. To date road repairs in 14 areas of New Providence have been completed, with repairs on Bellot Road and Christie Street currently ongoing. During the weekly press briefings at the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr Sweeting noted his ministry’s commitment to ensuring that the infrastructure of the country is up-to-par with modern-day amenities. “In the month of January, paving has been completed on Yamacraw Shores, East Street South, between Cordeaux and Palm Tree Avenue, an unnamed road off Abundant Life Road, Bank Lane and Jubilee Gardens,” Mr Sweeting said. “In February paving works were carried out in Kennedy Subdivision, Forg Avenue, Philox Court, Zinna Street, Pine Forest, Vernon Street, Collies Avenue, Carmichael Road, Ramsey Road to Bacardi Road, Cowpen Road, 1000 feet west of Faith Avenue Junction and Bellot Road from McKinney to Sir Milo Butler.” He noted that the cost has not increased and total funding remains at $98,210,000, which is inclusive of road repairs, sidewalk construction and drainage repairs in New Providence and the Family Islands. Drainage works are in progress for areas such as Dowdeswell Street, Christie Street, and Carmichael Road West, according to Minister Sweeting.

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Housing not in favour of Bahamians

EDITOR, The Tribune. ACCESS to adequate housing is a human right. When The Bahamas joined the United Nations (UN) in September 1973, it pledged to uphold that right. The right to adequate housing is outlined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an international document adopted by the UN General Assembly, of which The Bahamas is a member. The declaration affirms, in article 25, that access to adequate housing plays a key role in guaranteeing the right to an adequate standard of living for all. At present, there are well over 1000 active Airbnb listings in New Providence alone. The website does not provide a precise figure. These listings range from roughly $30 a night to hundreds and even thousands of dollars for a single night stay. These properties are primarily marketed to international tourists, which is a conscious, economically-driven decision being made daily on the part of both Bahamians and foreigners. The problem with the proliferation of short term rentals via platforms like Airbnb is that it drives up surrounding rent prices, eliminates otherwise viable housing opportunities (experienced first-hand), and contributes to gentrification and displacement. The “Airbnb effect”, as it is dubbed in a 2020 Forbes article, refers to the tendency for rises in Airbnb listings to augment the value of an area to the detriment of local residents, who are evicted by virtue of both economic and cultural disenfranchisement. Successive governments have cited the need for greater access to housing and homeownership. While new housing projects have been undertaken, they have been completed at great cost to the government and, arguably, to the environment. Stricter regulation of short term rentals would reduce the need to construct entirely new communities by providing property owners incentive to exercise a new kind of nationalism – one which prioritises morality and respect for human rights over profit. The Department of Inland revenue is currently requiring that all short term vacation rental properties be registered by the end of April at no cost. The ultimate goal, the site states, is “to ensure that all owners within the short-term vacation rental market are maintaining a high standard of service and meeting all tax obligations.” Remarkably, there is no allusion to the fact that short term rentals are actively contributing to a housing shortage, in conjunction with climate change and the very insular nature of our geography. Aruba has already sounded the alarm. It is not unreasonable to suggest that unregulated short term rentals are worsening economic inequalities in The Bahamas, while simultaneously exacerbating the housing crisis. In my own community in western New Providence, many of the properties being offered as short-term rentals are owned by foreigners and managed by foreigners. Many of the property owners do not even have to maintain full-time employment, because their profits are so lucrative. Every day, I see wealthy visitors, with no relationship to this land, enjoying their overpriced short term vacation rentals. Tourism has never been this blatantly neocolonial. Its profits have never been this pernicious – its economics never this disenfranchising for unhoused Bahamians. RHYS KNOWLES March 12, 2024

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PM lacking honesty on the issues

EDITOR, The Tribune. IT never ceases to amaze me how politicians so quickly change their media postures immediately after attaining the office they are shooting for, in this instance prime minister! For one, in a seeming chorus they all shout from the roof tops the need for transparency and accountability while in opposition but once in office very few want any real association with those two words. Lip service maybe, but actual delivery? Not! I hope the present leader of the opposition, Michael Pintard, who seems a real honorable man and not just a holder of a title bestowed in Parliament, will stand out remaining true to these ideals. First, Dr Hubert Minnis who avoided the media like the plague when he became prime minister, though some would argue not enough and certainly not at enough of the right times as he was the local embodiment of Shakespeare’s Miss Malaprop, which helped to contribute to his election loss in 2021. He became a deer in the headlights when he saw a microphone coming, a far cry from how he acts today once again in opposition. As prime minister Dr Minnis refused to answer simple, reasonable questions from the media when he was not throwing out some head scratching response that had most people asking what in the world he was talking about. He is now once again the best friend of the media. Now, here comes Prime Minister Philip Davis with his well documented amnesia and refusal to answer questions he finds inconvenient. The most recent incident involves questions about spending the people’s money to campaign in Bimini and Grand Bahama. He says some answers will be given during the mid year budget debate but the questions are misguided. For asking for accountability and transparency when spending the people’s money? I cannot overlook what is happening with BPL, a particular albatross that has haunted the prime minister since his days as deputy prime minister. Half truths and outright lies have been the hallmark of his communications regarding the power company. The unions are now calling him on his lack of transparency by telling them one thing as opposition leader, including signing a MOU, but apparently disregarding that document in his efforts to “deal” with BPL and the “high energy” costs on the Bahamian people. I am among the many Bahamians who take no comfort in anything the prime minister promises about BPL given his track record. I am also among the many Bahamians who want him to apologise for putting up those offensive billboards and saying something so unbelievable like, “that was then, this is now.” Really Mr Prime Minister? Our last two prime ministers have one thing in common that no one should be proud of. Believe what they tell you at your own risk! SAMUEL ROKER Exuma, Bahamas March 6, 2024.

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What role is played by Georges?

EDITOR, The Tribune. PRIME Minister Philip Brave Davis is the leader of the Progressive Liberal Party government and will undoubtedly make decisions which he believes are in the best interests of The Bahamas. One of those decisions, apparently, was the appointment of Haitian-Bahamian activist Louby Georges in the Ministry of Immigration. Admittedly, Georges’ role as consultant in this PLP administration came as a complete surprise to many Bahamians, when it was cavalierly mentioned on the Our News Bahamas broadcast, posted on its Facebook page on March 5. Unfortunately, many Bahamians went on Facebook to post uncharitable, xenophobic comments regarding Mr Georges and his appointment. Judging from the comments, it would appear that they were in the dark regarding the Georges gig. At this point I am beginning to question the financial feasibility of all these consultancy jobs, especially when you already have a large Cabinet to go along with well-paid Permanent Secretaries and other government technocrats. The gist of the Our News Bahamas story was Georges’ concerns about the abrupt cancellation of Bahamasair flights from Haiti, which is currently in a state of rebellion, with a government that is on the verge of collapsing. Just this past Friday gang members attacked the Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince. Days prior to the attack gang members freed four thousand inmates from various prisons in the country. Haitian Prime Minister Dr Ariel Henry, as far as I’m aware, remains in Puerto Rico after the Dominican Republic closed its airspace to Haitian flights. Meanwhile, Martine Moïse, widow of assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, along with former Prime Minister Claude Joseph and former chief of the National Police, Léon Charles, were all indicted by a judge for their alleged involvement in the murder of Moïse in July 2021. In light of these disturbing developments in Haiti, it is understandable why Bahamasair canceled its flights from the politically unstable Caribbean island. This raises the question as to why Georges felt the pressing need to go to the press to voice his concerns, when even he admitted that the situation in Haiti remains volatile. The entire ordeal, which looks like another opportunity for Georges to grace the cameras, was unnecessary in my opinion. Also worth questioning is when was Georges appointed to his position? What consultation is he offering and how much Bahamian tax dollars, if any, is he being paid? Moreover, if given a choice between Haiti and The Bahamas, will Louby Georges choose the former or the latter? Bahamians need to know that a Haitian activist who has gone out on a limb for Haiti would be willing to do the same for their country. The Bahamas, notwithstanding its flaws, has provided for Georges and other Haitian migrants, be they illegal or otherwise, a safe, stable homeland where they can earn an honest living — something that Haiti has not been able to offer. KEVIN EVANS Freeport, Grand Bahama March 10, 2024.

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