Bahamas Gov’t continues to defend immigration policy

FredMitchell-3Nassau, Bahamas (CMC) — The Bahamas government insists there is “a sophisticated criminal enterprise” behind an illegal migration scheme targeting the country and appealed to everyone including the media to help the authorities deal with the situation.

Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell again defended the government stringent new migration policy that opponents say have trampled on the human rights of people, particularly those of Haitian descent.

Last weekend, Minister of State for Legal Affairs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Damien Gomez, appeared before the Infer-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) defending allegations made by the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA).

Gomez told the IACHR that Nassau has a history of respecting human rights that “predates our independence.

“Indeed, our support of Haiti and its people in the attainment of economic, political and social stability emanates from an abiding and unflinching belief in the dignity of our shared human condition,” Gomez told the IACHR commissioners, who convened the hearing based on specific allegations made by the GBHRA president Fred Smith about the mistreatment of illegal Haitian immigrants in The Bahamas.

Smith had submitted written documents to the IACHR on the issue and last week, the international human rights group, Amnesty International said it was seeking information from the Bahamas government regarding its migration reform policy.

Mitchell in a statement praised Gomez “for the work done on behalf of the country” adding that Nassau appeared before the IACHR “because The Bahamas is keen to ensure that we do all that we reasonably can to protect and defend the reputation of our country.

“I am using this opportunity to solicit the support of the media in the continuing conversation on immigration which is a paramount national security issue. We need the public’s support.

“I want to let you know that this is a continuing exercise the fight against illegal migration. The more we see, the more it suggests that we are fighting a sophisticated criminal enterprise which is seeking to make money at any cost and in the process attempting to destabilize The Bahamas. All Bahamians must fight this,” Mitchell said.

He said on Saturday, police acting on intelligence, intercepted a vessel off Abaco with 45 males, 11 females and five children without visas, adding that “we expect to repatriate them shortly to Port au Prince”.

Mitchell said he was urging “our intelligence people to actively go over the record of this interdiction so that we can be fully briefed on these latest developments.

“I hope to be in a position, subject to further advice, to brief the Cabinet on Tuesday and then the House on Wednesday,” Mitchell said, adding that the Immigration Amendment Bill, which is now being debated in Parliament, “is key to the other part of the immigration strategy which is to allow a status for those who were born here to foreign parents and not yet been granted permanent residence or citizenship”.

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