'Leave now' illegal immigrants told
By PAUL G. TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
ACTING Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette has ordered all illegal immigrants residing in the Bahamas to voluntarily leave the country ... or face immediate repatriation.
Acknowledging that there has been a noticeable increase in the number of Haitian migrants attempting to gain entry illegally into the Bahamas over the past six months and, in particular, during the last two weeks, Mr Symonette said he wants these persons to know that if they are caught, they will be sent "straight back."
"We want those persons who are thinking of coming here from different countries to think again. So before they start to jump on that boat to try and make it to the Bahamas to know fully well that if they are caught here we will send them straight back. We have demonstrated that in the past few weeks where we have sent back a significant number of persons and that number as you are well aware has increased.
"There are some who have only made it as far as Inagua and they have been sent back. So we are trying to say to people that if you are thinking of coming here to find a better way of life to please rethink that. Now for those who are here who have yet to have their status regularized we have been working hard on that. But for those who are here illegally, the consequences will flow," he said.
In a statement issued from the Department of Immigration, it notes that following the January 12 earthquake in Port au Prince, the government of the Bahamas was "understanding and responsive" by temporarily suspending its apprehension exercises with respect to Haitians residing illegally in its territory.
Further, the statement read, the department issued permits "to reside" to 102 persons who were detained at the Bahamas Detention Centre, on Carmichael Road.
"However, having regard to the recent heightened infringement of the Bahamas Immigration Law, notice is hereby given that with immediate effect, all illegal immigrants are requested to leave the Bahamas voluntarily. All persons who are here illegally are in contravention of the laws of the Bahamas, and are advised to return to their country of origin or be subject to apprehension and deportation. Persons who are found to be in the Bahamas illegally will be repatriated forthwith," the statement read.
This statement from the department was also issued in Creole and is printed in full in today's Tribune.
Mr Symonette: "As a country we have to have a nation-wide discussion on immigration. One thing we have to do is look at what other countries (in our region) do. Some of our neighbours only allow you to come and work for three years for instance, and you are not allowed to bring your wife, or your children.
"The same goes for education, and healthcare. It is not a part of that consideration they give to non-national labour. But we do. We may have to re-look at all of these things and decide what is the level of non-Bahamian workforce that we need."
To answer this question, Mr Symonette said we can ask ourselves how many Bahamians are willing or prepared to be gardeners or household keepers. While some might argue that Bahamians are capable and willing to work in any field, the Minister said there are instances where persons have simply sought to remain unemployed instead of taking a job that might pay less than they desire.
However, when it comes to making a dent in the flow of illegal immigrants, Mr Symonette said there needs to be amendments to the immigration laws to plug any loopholes that smugglers might exploit, as well as a drastic change in the thinking of Bahamians who continue to employ these illegal workers.
August 16, 2010