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United Nations Admits To Sharing Flawed Number Of Homeless Bahamians

A crowd of people gathered at Freeport Harbour in Grand Bahama trying to board a cruise ship to Florida.
Daniel Rivero
A crowd of people gathered at Freeport Harbour in Grand Bahama trying to board a cruise ship to Florida.

A number widely cited by media outlets and elected officials since Hurricane Dorian pounded the Bahamas is incorrect, the United Nations has acknowledged.

In a press briefing last Friday, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the Secretary-General of the United Nations,  said: “We believe that about 70,000 people are currently homeless in the Bahamas.”

The thing is, the estimated population of the island of Grand Bahama is between 50,000 and 55,000. And in the neighboring island of Abaco, the estimated population is only about 18,000. That puts the total population of the two most impacted islands at roughly 70,000, making the claim that all 70,000 were left homeless by the storm suspect.

Asked about this, Russell Geekie, a spokesperson for the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, conceded that the number was flawed.

“Good catch,” he wrote to WLRN in an email. "That initial figure was an estimate of the number of people affected which was indeed based on the population of the affected areas.”

The UN currently has teams headed to the island nation, and Geekie said they should be providing “more granular detail of the needs” and circumstances of the impacted islands in the coming days.

In the meantime, many media outlets were citing the number. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris cited it in a plea to get them granted Temporary Protected Status in the US.

"More than 70,000 Bahamians are suddenly homeless after Hurricane Dorian. They've lost practically everything,” she wrote on Twitter. "Denying TPS status to them is heartless.”

More than a thousand Bahamian nationals have already fled to Florida in the wake of the devastating storm, including an estimated 1,100 who came aboard a cruise shipthat left Freeport to the Port of Palm Beach last weekend.

Florida Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott have asked the Trump Administration to temporarily waive visa restrictions for Bahamians who want to stay with family in the US.

The Administration has not yet made an announcement on that request. However, on Wednesday, NBC reported that the Trump Administration has decided not to grant Temporary Protected Status to Bahamians fleeing the islands.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Daniel Rivero is a reporter and producer for WLRN, covering Latino and criminal justice issues. Before joining the team, he was an investigative reporter and producer on the television series "The Naked Truth," and a digital reporter for Fusion.
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