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We won’t turn Dominicans back

Published: 
Saturday, September 23, 2017
PM stunned by negative response to initiative
Hurricane victims assist a T&T helicopter crew to offload relief supplies in Dominica yesterday.

If Dominican nationals enter this country with nowhere to stay, Government will meet its commitment under the United Nations Charter and accept them as refugees, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday.

“We are duty bound not to turn them back, they could become a ward of the state,” he said.

He knocked critics of Government’s call for citizens to open their doors to the people of Dominica and said he was disappointed that some people tried to turn it into a race issue, as had happened more than a quarter century ago in 1991 when late Prime Minister Patrick Manning tried to assist Haitians devastated by a natural disaster.

“There is no expiry date on doing good, there is no expiry date on being decent,” said Rowley, who added that the principle espoused by Manning still holds.

He said those seeking to find race and politics in the decision and talking about citizens of this country not being able to feed themselves are selfish and live “in a rabbit hole.”

“They don’t realise that if a natural disaster should strike this country we will expect others to help us,” he said in a television interview yesterday morning.

“One does not determine how you express the milk of human kindness by virtue of how you feel, how much you have, or how hungry you are. It is a question of humanity.”

He said he is optimistic the vast majority of people, once given the opportunity, will put their personal needs aside and help.

He urged: “Whatever your circumstances, if you have 100 grains of rice you might be able to share two with them.”

Rowley said Government did not expect “huge numbers” of Dominicans to come of T&T and reiterated that the request was for a six-month period, after which he expected that they will return to their homeland.

On the question of whether any special legislation is required, he said people entering the country are governed by the Immigration Act.

Rowley said if children are among those who come they will be placed in schools. He said Government is not in a position to give Dominica a cheque but this country has provided helicopters and vessels to transport supplies.

“We are making a valuable contribution,” he said.