Residents of The Bahamas looking to flee the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Dorian were en route to the shores of the United States but were ordered to vacate the transport ferry. It appears that the residents were misinformed on travel requirements, and the company operating the ferry reportedly didn’t coordinate the evacuation with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.
Late Sunday night, CNN affiliate WSVN reporter Brian Entin posted video from a Balearia ferry boat in which a person announced over a loudspeaker that anyone traveling to the US without a visa must disembark. The ferry was set to travel from hurricane-ravaged Freeport to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when the announcement was made, Entin told CNN.
His video shows families with children getting off the vessel. One woman told Entin that as many as 130 people left the ferry after the announcement.
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke called the incident “the height of cruelty” and was one of a number of people who blamed the Trump administration’s strict immigration policies.
But Customs and Border Protection spokesman Michael Silva told WSVN that Balearia, the ferry operator, did not properly coordinate the evacuation efforts with the American Embassy, the Bahamian government and the US Agency for International Development.
“We’re there to facilitate and accommodate that process in an orderly fashion, according to regulation and protocol. However, Balearia did not do that,” Silva said. “We asked them to coordinate ahead of time. They did not that do that.”
The outlet adds that around 1,500 Bahamians were allowed to enter Palm Beach, Fla. aboard a cruise ship, and were allowed to pass through as the Grand Celebration company worked with the Customs and Border agency ahead of time.