Two shantytowns on Abaco Island in the Bahamas were destroyed by Hurricane Dorian — and Haitian activists in Florida are pleading with the government of the Bahamas to suspend its strict immigration enforcement policies while the bodies are collected, reports the Miami New Times.
Known as the Mudd and Pigeon Peas, the two shantytowns account for roughly 70 percent of unregulated housing on the island; homes were mostly made of plywood, and were incapable of withstanding sustained Dorian’s 185 mph winds and gusts of up to 200 mph.
[RELATED: Dorian hit Bahamas poor hardest]
The Mudd and Pigeon Peas had a combined estimated population of 2,600 people, 20 percent of whom were found to be undocumented in a 2018 census.
Reporting on the scene, a Fox News correspondent, Steve Harrigan, described a landscape of near-complete devastation — and also neglect.
“You get a sense that people didn’t know how many people were here,” Harrigan says in the video, surrounded by rubble and wreckage. “They don’t know how many are gone, and no one really seems to be looking for them very hard.”
Harrigan said the dead bodies of people and animals where everywhere, protruding from beneath the destruction.
Immigration enforcement, including a spike in shantytown raids, has gotten more severe in the Bahamas over the past few years, as part of a crackdown on the islands’ estimated 39,000 Haitian migrants.
The New Times reports that that estimated population is probably an underestimate, as many Haitians “do not have legal status.”
Aline Francois, one of the Miami activists, told the New Times that the official death toll of 30 people is probably a significant undercount, as many Haitian migrants may have decided against seeking official shelter due to fears of immigration enforcement.
“I knew that Haitians there would probably be too afraid to seek help,” François told the newspaper, “and if they did, they probably would be treated harshly. We do know that the Bahamas has a history of treating Haitians very poorly, as well as immigrants overall.”
Sources: Miami New Times, Fox News