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With tears rolling down his face, Bahamian Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis on Wednesday outlined a comprehensive plan to lend assistance to the government and people of Dominica in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Following brief talks with his Dominican counterpart Roosevelt Skerrit last weekend, Dr Minnis served notice that his country was prepared to open its doors to Dominican families and schools to Dominican students as the country attempts to embark on a massive reconstruction exercise.
In an address to the House of Assembly, he said his administration would temporarily relax immigration rules and issue permits to reside for three categories of students from the storm-battered Eastern Caribbean island who wish to continue their education in The Bahamas.
The three categories include: children who have relatives in The Bahamas and who can find lodging and support from those family members; college students who want to study at the University of The Bahamas and will reside on campus; and the children of parents employed in companies and banks that have offices in The Bahamas.
Dr Minnis also announced that he would be leading a delegation to Roseau on Monday.
“The purpose of the visit is to survey the damage for myself, and for others to see the level of devastation,” he said.
In the meanwhile, The Bahamas will also be deploying the HMBS Lawrence Major landing craft to Dominica, which has 19 officers and the capacity to transport approximately 14, 40-foot containers or 28, 20-foot containers of equipment and supplies.
Dr Minnis also used the occasion to rebuke critics who suggested the Government should take care of its own.
Describing the comments as shameful, the Prime Minister said: “Those who would stoke certain fears at this time do not represent the best of who we are.”
The Prime Minister, who paused several times during his speech to wipe his eyes and compose himself, said “Dominica has experienced an apocalypse” and The Bahamas was duty bound to help.
Adding that “he felt the heartbreak of the [Dominican] Prime Minister”, Dr Minnis insisted that Christian charity does not end at borders.
“We can either respond with humanitarian and Christian values or we can close our hearts to those who are now experiencing tremendous suffering and emergency needs,” he said. “Charity may begin at home, but Christian charity never stops at the borders of any country.”