Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Illegal Migrants are Not Welcome in The Bahamas


Honourable Fred Mitchell, MP - Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, The Bahamas
I wish Mr. Speaker to repeat to the House the policy of the government on Immigration announced on 30th October of this year. This concretized months of work announcing that these changes were coming. This announcement should therefore not have been a surprise to anyone.

The public is reminded that as of 1st November 2014 the following will apply:

No applications will be accepted in The Bahamas for first-time work permit applicants who have no legal status in The Bahamas. All first-time applicants for work permits without legal status in The Bahamas will have to be certified as having been seen by The Bahamas Embassy in their home country or the nearest Consular Office of The Bahamas. There are no exceptions to this rule.

This does not apply to renewals once those are made before the current permit expires.

As of 1st November, 2014 the Passport Office will no longer issue Certificates of Identity to those persons born of non-nationals in The Bahamas. Those individuals who have valid Certificates of Identity must now obtain the passport of their nationality and apply for a residency permit which will show that they have a right to live and work in The Bahamas. There are no exceptions to this except in accordance with our international treaty obligations.

A Special Residency Permit will be available for those individuals who have the right to apply for Bahamian citizenship at the age of 18 and before their 19th birthday. The processing fee is 100 dollars and the annual permit is 25 dollars. These permits will only be issued to those persons whose parents are lawfully in The Bahamas. This will allow the holder to live, work and go to school in The Bahamas until such time as their citizenship status is determined. These are obtained upon application at the Department of Immigration. Applications can be obtained for the special permit beginning on Monday 3rd November.

All people who live and work in The Bahamas are reminded that it is prudent to have a document on your person, at all times, which shows that you have a right to live and work in The Bahamas.

The public is asked to be patient as the new policies unfold.

Any comments on the policy may be addressed to the Director of Immigration.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration thanks the public for their support and cooperation.
Since that time there have been unfortunate reports mainly by way of social media which have the effect of poisoning the well with regard to these policies. Let me repeat: The policies are generic. They are not targeted at any particular national group.

The policies are a logical consequence of the constitution which we have which does not confer citizenship by birth on children born in this country whose parents are not Bahamian. That is what we inherited and that is what we work with.

The policies have been described in various ways by people who seem not to wish The Bahamas any good. The names do not bear repeating. The Prime Minister has described one critics' statements as nonsense so I will go no further than that. That characterizes in my view so much of the ill-informed commentary about this.

If you will permit me a personal observation however while one must be cognizant of the international dimension, these policies are for The Bahamas and the only question Bahamians need to ask is whether it is in the best interest of the country.

My surmise of the reaction to the chord which this has struck in The Bahamas is that this strikes at the very identity of the country and many feel that the country’s future is threatened if actions are not taken to stem the tide of illegal and I stress illegal migration.

I do not speak in those apocalyptic terms but what I know is that law and order requires us to act to stem the tide of boat after boat after boat coming to this country seemingly unimpeded with hundreds of people on those boats with no visa, no means of taking care of themselves and no jobs. That becomes a national security problem. No government can stand still in the face of that. We faced that situation in at least two months during this past year.

We have repatriated over 3000 people to their home countries this year. The cost is unsustainable.

The Detention Centre is again at capacity, just two weeks after a repatriation exercise.

There are two flights scheduled to depart next week.

So mathematics dictates this course of action.

I repeat: immigration is a blunt instrument. It is not social work. It is a policing action and requires difficult and hard decisions. Decision making goes in this cycle: the policy, its implementation, the reaction. The first reaction is resistance in some quarters. This test of the officials by those who oppose it is to see if it will shake your resolve by creating alarm in the society, the press and the world community. If we do not flinch, then that is the first indication to them that the psychological climate in which the law enforcement is operating has changed. It sends out a signal that this is a place that illegal migrants should not come. It is that psychological mindset that we are seeking to break.

While many have concentrated on the campaign of misinformation, I would rather share with you what has been said about the policy that is positive:

I quote: “It concerned us greatly when we heard the vicious and unfair comments fielded against The Bahamas by Mrs. Daphne Campbell. Neither Mrs. Campbell or Mrs. Jetta Baptiste reside in The Bahamas, and therefore, we do not feel that they have the authority to speak on behalf of Haitians and people of Haitian descent in this country in the tone and manner in which they have spoken. While they are free to express their opinions, we wish to make our position clear that we oppose their suggestions that the Bahamas should be boycotted by Americans and other nationalities via its tourism product." – United Association of Haitians and Bahamians.

I wish to share the results of the poll published by Umwale Rahming of Public Domain and reported by Candia Dames of the Nassau Guardian on Monday 17th November 2014:

The sample size is 520; this is scientifically an accurate predictor of general public opinion I am advised for our population size:

Do you approve of the policy?

85.4 per cent said yes

With 69.4 strongly approving and 16 per cent somewhat approving and 11.8 per cent disapproving.

Do you think the new policy should be applied to both parents and children or just parents?

71 per cent said to both parents and children.

Do you think the government is doing the right thing despite the criticism in some quarters of it being too harsh?
63.2 per cent said yes, 27.9 per cent agree with the policy but wishes it were executed in a another way.

Does this new policy make you feel that the government is showing leadership?
59.5 per cent said yes

33.9 per cent said no

6.6 per cent didn’t know

The writer is Candia Dames, not known to support the work of this government, and she wrote: “National Review has no doubt that local support for the immigration policy will continue to hold strong. We hope that it is sustained and intensified. On the immigration issue the Government seems to be getting it right.”

The Leader of the Opposition made the following statement yesterday:

“We are one when it comes to the protection of our sovereignty. The FNM believes that in the main, the actions being taken by the administration are right and will redound to the benefit of The Bahamas in the long term.”

Mr. Speaker, this suggests that this policy has as close to a universal approval that you can have in this country. I believe that is an historic first and I believe that this House and this generation ought to salute itself for this unique accomplishment in our history.

It is a consensus that we should not misuse or abuse but we should seek to keep the consensus and to act in a humane but dispassionate way to ensure that the sovereignty of our country is protected.

I undertake to protect that consensus and to work with my opposite number, the Shadow Minister, in that regard.

I have been authorized by the Cabinet to speak with the Bahamian community in Miami on Saturday at a meeting at St Agnes Church Hall at 6 p.m. and to meet with the Secretary General at the Organization of American States and the CARICOM Caucus in Washington at the earliest opportunity.

I have already met with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) here in Nassau. I asked them whether they can play a role in supporting the capacity of our neighbours to the south to produce their national passports. We have been advised by the press that some difficulties may arise with that. For the record, we had earlier received assurances as early as the 28th July that the production of passports would not have been a problem.

The Prime Minister has met with the leaders of certain national groups in this country and they have made various suggestions that are being examined. However, it is important to say that The Bahamas should do nothing which signals to the world that our resolve on this issue is slackening or weakening. That would be a grave error and sabotage our future best interests.

I spoke to the 32 men and women of the Enforcement Unit of the Department of Immigration this morning who are headed by Kirk at the Department of Immigration in the presence of the Director William Pratt. They are concerned about whether their work is supported. I assured them that it is. The Leader of the Opposition in his statement has gone out of his way to make the point of their professionalism in carrying of their jobs. They have the support of the government.

I thanked them for their work and asked them once again to be safe, to be respectful to be humane but be disciplined and apply the law without fear or favour.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.


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