The Bahamas Immigration Minister Keith Bell resists UN call to suspend deportations to Haiti as situation spirals out of control
“Haiti has political instability, economic deprivation, and complete social collapse. So you are talking about a myriad of challenges and problems. That problem can only be addressed at the international level and so it isn’t a matter of frustration
The Bahamas is facing an influx of Haitian migrants. However, United Nations Secretary General António Gutierrez on Monday called on governments to consider halting deportations as the situation there spirals out of control
Speaking on the sideline of a Labour on the Campus event, Mr Bell recognised the duty of the secretary general, but made it clear what the government has to do.
“The United Nations obviously they seek to ensure that there is harmony, there’s unity among all nations, so obviously that is his job. We in The Bahamas have a job to do to ensure that we protect The Bahamas for Bahamians. It’s as simple as that. The Bahamas as all governments have consistently said we cannot absorb these persons who come in The Bahamas illegally,” he said.
“If you want to come to The Bahamas as a tourist or want to work, then there is a process. If you follow that process, you may be granted access to The Bahamas.
“If you come here illegally and unlawfully, then, of course, there has to be swift justice. We will not tolerate, nor will we support reasonably anyone coming into The Bahamas from undocumented or illegal means you will stay in the jurisdiction you will be deported.”
He also shared doubts that The Bahamas would sign on to provisions allowing for free movement when asked about CARICOM’s freedom of movement or labour within the region.
“I know you’re talking about a treaty – I think the Treaty of Chaguaramas and the (free) movement of people through the Caribbean. The government of The Bahamas, both PLP and FNM, has consistently not signed on to those specific provisions. I do not foresee in the very far future that we’re going to support a free movement throughout this country of anyone.”
Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis said the crisis in Haiti poses a substantial threat to The Bahamas due to an increase in irregular migration.
He spoke earlier this week at the opening session of the heads of summit meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
During his remarks, Mr Davis stated: “With the support and leadership of Haiti, collectively, we can, through CELAC and other regional organisations, help Haitians build a path out of crisis.”
Asked if there was frustration with the international community over addressing Haiti’s issues, the labour minister listed some of the factors that needed to be considered when helping countries.
“I will not say it there is frustration and you would have seen all around the world where first world developed countries, superpowers go into these countries where they need help — where there is a genocide or there is this civil war and the like. When you go into these countries you have to ensure first of all, what is your objective? What are the objectives of you going in? And what would be your exit strategy?
“Haiti has political instability, economic deprivation, and complete social collapse. So you are talking about a myriad of challenges and problems. That problem can only be addressed at the international level and so it isn’t a matter of frustration.
“It’s just a matter of how we’re going to address these issues and challenges and then determine how we can help, but Haiti has 12 million people, The Bahamas cannot under no circumstance, support any illegal and unlawful entry of persons from Haiti and that has extended to Cuba where we’ve had an exponential growth in illegal migrants coming from that country. We will not tolerate it.”