Dorian: Bahamas evacuees wrongly removed from ship amid visa confusion

FREEPORT, Bahamas (WSVN/CNN) - Evacuees trying to escape the hurricane devastation in the Bahamas were told to get off a ferry headed to the U.S. if they didn't have a visa.

More than 100 people trying to leave hurricane-damaged Bahamas were forced to leave a boat headed to the U.S. amid confusion over the need for a visa. (Source: WSVN/CNN)

An announcement was made over the boat's speaker system.

About 130 people got off the boat in Freeport on Sunday. The ferry then headed for Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

WSVN reported that evacuees were told they only needed their Bahamian passports and a paper from authorities verifying they did not have a criminal record.

The ferry crew said they were told by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the last minute that they were not allowed to take the evacuees to the U.S. port if they did not have visas.

Stephen Silvestri, acting port director for CBP, said no one in the U.S. government ordered the people's removal.

"If those folks did stay on the boat and arrived, we would have processed them, vetted them and worked within our laws and protocols and done what we, you know, we had to do to facilitate them," he said. "I think it was a decision, a business decision by (boat owner) Balearia to remove them. They were not ordered off the boat by any U.S. government entity."

CBP officials say they are supporting the humanitarian mission and everyone who comes to the U.S. must have valid identification and travel documents.

Nearly 1,500 Hurricane Dorian survivors arrived on a cruise ship at the Port of Palm Beach, Fla. on Saturday.

CBP says they were processed without any problems.

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