Confusion in the Bahamas as hundreds of evacuees without a visa forced off a ferry headed to Florida; Update: CBP blames the ferry company

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Update: CBP is blaming the ferry company for what happened:

Just interviewed @CBPFlorida when we got off ferry in FL. They say they would have accepted and processed the Bahamians, and blame the ferry company Balearia. CBP says they tried to coordinate with Balearia but company "made a business decision" to take the evacuees off the boat. pic.twitter.com/ONkgdcJvS3

— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019

Statement from CBP:

“CBP was notified of a vessel preparing to embark an unknown number of passengers in Freeport and requested that the operator of the vessel coordinate with U.S. and Bahamian government officials.”This ferry I’m on is operated by Balearia — a major company with a regular schedule https://t.co/8zQoU5DoEP

— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019

Original post:

There’s some major confusion happening right now in the Bahamas as hundreds of people attempting to evacuate from Freeport to Fort Lauderdale on a ferry were reportedly forced off this ship because they didn’t have a visa:

Big problems on the ferry from Freeport to Florida — announcement just made that any Bahamian without a visa must now get off. This is not normal. Nornally Bahamians can travel to USA with passport and a printout of their police record. This is a mess. pic.twitter.com/DESUm2qBGE

— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 8, 2019

Hundreds like Renard Oliver and his baby now have to get off the ferry from Freeport, Bahamas to Florida. He was trying to evacuate — told he could leave with Bahamian passport and police record like normal but then ferry crew says US Goverment called and changed plan last minute pic.twitter.com/vhBkSgBlKF

— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 8, 2019

Another announcement just made ordering any Bahamian without a US visa to disembark ferry — not allowed to evacuate. They were told before boarding it was ok with Bahamian passport and clean polce record. Something has now changed. pic.twitter.com/m7CnZxoiMM

— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019

Ferry staff now going around checking passports. There are hundreds of Bahamians on here. People are in shock. Hundreds of people trying to evacuate just forced off the boat. I’m not videoing because I just got yelled at by crew.

— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019

This is what I’m learning from passengers: normally Bahamians can FLY to the USA with their passport and a clean police record. Bc of the hurricane, the rules were changed and they could also come to US under those conditions on ferries and ships. They’ve been doing that for days

— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019

So they all lined up and waited for hours to board this ferry. (See my tweets from earlier) when we were about to leave, something changed.

— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019

That’s it. We’re leaving — all Bahamian evacuees without a visa taken off. The Bahamians who remain are in shock. No one understands why the rule was changed at the last minute. The parents and kids now stuck on the island. pic.twitter.com/Jvd3D6MTZW

— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 9, 2019

From what we’ve read, Bahamanians who fly to the U.S. pre-clear customs on the island and thus have different requirements from those traveling to the U.S. on a ship or third country where a visa is needed. From CBP:

All Bahamians who seek to enter the United States from a third country, or who apply for admission to The United States at anywhere other than the Pre-clearance Facilities located in Nassau or Freeport, are required to be in possession of a valid visa to enter the United States.

Travelers should be aware that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Preclearance Station hours of operation may change with short notice, especially in emergency situations (such as hurricane watches.) Bahamians whose individual hurricane plans include travel to the United States should consider applying for U.S. visas well in advance.

CBP has been working with private vessels to pre-clear evacuees, which sounds like that wasn’t done with this ferry tonight:

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line “spent nearly a full day clearing potential evacuees, including getting their visa and passport documentation,” a press release said. @pbpost

— Hannah Morse (@mannahhorse) September 7, 2019

A CBP spokesperson told me this yesterday: pic.twitter.com/Txo5P2XQjg

— Hannah Morse (@mannahhorse) September 7, 2019

Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan tweeted that these are the same policies that have always been in place and that nothing has been changed:

Those evacuating from the Bahamas who are U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and those with proper documentation to enter the U.S. are being processed at U.S. Ports of Entry. No visa document requirements have changed.

— Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan (@CBPMarkMorgan) September 8, 2019

.@CBP has the discretion to issue humanitarian or medical parole on a case-by-case basis to travelers with a proven need to enter the U.S. – for a temporary period of time – to receive emergency care.

— Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan (@CBPMarkMorgan) September 8, 2019

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