A ferry headed for Florida was set to depart from the Bahamas on Sunday (September 8) carrying dozens of survivors to safety.
Evacuees insisted they were told all they needed to board the boat was their Bahamian passports and proof of clean criminal records.
“It breaks my heart because it’s like when you raise somebody’s hopes and then you pop the balloon… That, in my opinion, is what Baleària did,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Michael Silva told Newsweek on Monday (September 9), placing blame on the Baleària Carribean ferry company.
But crew members said that right before departure, U.S. Customs and Border Protection informed them they were not allowed to take any passengers without a visa.
U.S. Customs said they informed the ferry company they’d have to take evacuees to Nassau to get their visa before entering the United States. Still, more than 100 people were left stranded, reports Newsweek.
“We would have definitely worked with this transportation company or any other transportation company to...facilitate this process,” Silva said, explaining how they would have processed those individuals if they made it to the U.S. port. “CBP is not denying or discouraging evacuation efforts and we empathize with the plight of the Bahamian people.”
He added Baleària was charging passengers $150, “which is not inexpensive because I think airfare is about the same.”
“It was a for-profit cruise,” Silva said. “It wasn’t a humanitarian mission.”
While the ferry company has yet to comment further, a Miami reporter, Brian Entin, who was on the boat, tweeted what was happening.
In the video that accompanied his tweet, Entin said, “No one understands why the rule was changed at the last minute.”
(Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images)