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Hon. Fred Mitchell remarks at Grand Bahama Immigration graduation ceremony

 

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cialis generic order times;”>Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Hon. Fred Mitchell addresses immigration officers during the Squad A graduation ceremony in Grand Bahama on 6th Nov 2014

 

cialis canada cialis times;”>Freeport, Grand Bahama – As I was flying back from Trinidad on Wednesday I read the following statement in the Trinidad press. It was an announcement from Scotiabank’s President and CEO Brian Porter. The report said:

“Canada’s Scotiabank announced in Toronto yesterday that it would close 35 of its over 200 branches in the Caribbean and that it would sever 1500 full-time employees, including 500 in its international operations.”

The report also said that Scotiabank is expected to record certain charges in this fiscal 2014 fourth quarter earnings aggregating to a total of approximately 451 million dollars pre-tax.

It quoted the bank as saying: “The bank intends to record a restructuring provision of approximately 148 million dollars in the fourth quarter. The majority of the restructuring provisions relates to employee severance charges in the bank’s Canadian banking divisions and will affect people at all levels of the organization”

The report stated further: “Of the Caribbean: ‘Due to the prolonged economic recovery and continued uncertain outlook, these additional amounts bring the net carrying value in line with the expected net recoverable value.’”

That is a convoluted way of saying that the Caribbean as a region has an economy which is under performing and therefore not making money for the Bank. It is that issue which I submit should be the major focus of every government in this region. I will argue later that we are spending too much time on smaller issues when that should be the central focus – that of fixing the under performance of our economies.

In other news, we know the following about other Banks in our country: First Caribbean/CIBC wrote down $225 million in the second quarter for the Bahamas alone and $400 million for the region.

Scotia just wrote down $109 million for the region.

The Bank of The Bahamas wrote down $69 million

I start there because I told your fellow recruits and colleagues in Nassau yesterday that we have introduced some new immigration measures and some people think that they are directed at one socio economic group or nationality.   In fact what was announced was a generic policy designed to ensure that those who live in The Bahamas are documented to be here with the rights and privileges thereto appertaining. It is nothing more or less.

What the statement about the banks shows is that what we have in The Bahamas is a life and death struggle over many larger and greater issues which may affect our country’s survivability. The question really is what are we doing to ensure that there is a future for you and your children 30, 40 years from now?
You begin today as immigration officers, and we are by choosing you, choosing to shape the future of our country by putting our trust in you and your competence and your integrity.

Immigration will be called upon by our citizens to ameliorate the ill effects of so many things, one of which is the issue of the world economy.

There is a limited amount that we can do but we have an obligation to act within our sphere of competency.

That means that where people from the north of us come masquerading as visitors but being gainfully employed as property managers, as bankers and as salesmen, we must ensure that the rules apply to them as they do to gardeners, maids and handymen.

The criticism that you will receive will not always be logical but you must hold your head and work in a directed and focused manner.   You will hear all sorts of drivel.  Your integrity will be attacked but hold your head.

Just look at the banking example again. There has for example been adverse commentary about the decision of the government to create the Resolve Corporation to absorb a loan provisioning of the Bank of the Bahamas. But the fact is, what was done for the Bank of the Bahamas is not unusual for these times and for this region.

You can see that all the other major banks in the region have done so.

The Bank of the Bahamas has suffered from the same economic problems that RBC, Scotiabank and CIBC have suffered.

The one thing that you can say about the Bank of The Bahamas is that it tried to mobilize capital to help Bahamian entrepreneurs. The government has therefore done the right thing by the Bank of The Bahamas.

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Ministers Mitchell, Darville, Director of Immigration William Pratt, left of Mitchell, pose with the Squad A immigration graduates in Grand Bahama on 6th November 2014

 

Recently Richard Coulson, a former banker, wrote a letter to the press in which he said that the government rescued the Bank of The Bahamas while other Bahamian banks Commonwealth Bank and Fidelity had to take their lumps without help. Wrong again.  This is the second time in as many years I have had to point out that the Central Bank of the Bahamas rescued Commonwealth Bank when it over extend itself during an earlier period.

The government has done the right and prudent thing by the Bank of The Bahamas.

My point again today is that you will find that even though something is right and prudent, the critics will always have their say.

With regard to the present situation and immigration rules: People keep talking about immigration round ups.  There is no such creature.  Immigration has as it has always done, immigration checks on a daily basis.  There was nothing unusual about Saturday’s events save for the fact that someone decided to spin propaganda to discredit what

is being done on a daily basis.

All of us must be careful not to be hornswoggled and psychologically manipulated by video images that do not tell the truth.

The truth is those children were abandoned by their parents and paroled to a responsible adult within two hours of their being secured by immigration officers. That is the truth. But there is an axiom: never let the truth interfere with a good story.  Or don’t bore me with the facts; I have made up my mind.

There are five children who still await the return of a responsible adult.  In the meantime their care is superintended by the Department of Social Services.

The third set of children who were in fact housed at the detention centre, some 35 of them, came with their parents from Haiti on boats stopped on the seas over the past weeks.  They had no previous known connection to The Bahamas. They were repatriated to Haiti on Tuesday.

The practical fact though is that parents who enter the country illegally and are detained may protest their children being kept in separate facility from them. So some accommodation may have to be made for the children in the Detention Centre to stay with their parents, given the sensitivities some have about children in the detention centre.

I spoke this morning with my friend Joe Darville of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association.  I just wanted to be sure we are on the same page.  This is not 1986 and the Department of Immigration carried out no raid or round up.  In any event, I am hoping that that nomenclature is banned forever from our lexicon. I said in another context that we round up animals not human beings.

I ask everyone to adopt this posture: once again the facts.  From the time I became minister I said that enforcement of immigration rules will be consistent and continuous.  I did not need to be involved in the Department’s operation matters.

My role is a policy one.  I have stuck to that.  Each day since I have been minister, Immigration across the country, has been enforcing the law.  So what happened on Saturday last was no extraordinary event.

Those who seek to make it that are perpetrating a falsehood. The checks will continue. That is what immigration does.

I am also concerned about the pace of immigration processing at the Lynden Pindling International Airport.  This is becoming a vexing problem for the tourism product and we have attempted over the past year to fix this problem but it remains stubbornly persistent.

I am examining again methodologies to deal with this in the short term.

In the longer term we are asking the government to invest in new border management control systems which will make processing faster at the border and introduce biometrics and Interpol checks. However, we as always are cognizant of the shortage of resources.

I again appeal to the public to understand that there is a severe shortage of resources which immigration cannot rectify. We try to do more with less but there is a critical shortage of equipment and manpower which the Department is seeking to address.

I have also sought to reach out to Patricia Glinton Meicholas, the lecture and author, about a note in the newspaper this morning which said inter alia “The Bahamas today is about… immigration raids, to direct attention away from fundamental problems.” I join issue with her.  First, there was no immigration raid of which I am aware. Secondly, the present administrative measures I assure the public are not in any way aggressive but benign. They are simply meant to bring order to a disorderly process. They are certainly not meant to be a distraction from more fundamental problems.

I am in fact amazed that so much is being made out of this. Indeed it is in my view symptomatic of the issue which faces us. The Bahamas in this changing world is simply too deliberative in is decision-making. The Department of Immigration has just fewer than 18 million dollars at its disposal from the Government.

The size of our economy is 8 billion dollars.

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Minister for Grand Bahama Hon. Dr. Michael Darville addresses immigration officers during the Squad A graduation ceremony in Grand Bahamas on 6th November 2014

That amount is just about 0.23 of a per cent of our total GDP. If you divide the percent in the hours of the day, we should only spend 3 minutes a day talking about immigration. Why would we spend all this effort and time, public rowing, newsprint and radio and TV time over this small part of the economic pie when there are much bigger fish to fry: like where is The Bahamas going to be in 2050?

To be sure immigration is part of the whole cloth at fixing our national problems but we are really making too much of a fuss over this and spending too much of our central energy on it.

It simply confounds logic.

The immigration policies are simple, clear and in the best interest of every citizen of The Bahamas and every resident who lives here

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. They are for the peace and good order of The Bahamas.

So I urge everyone, friend and foe alike: take a deep breath, slow down, be calm and simply comply with the rules. Life is good, believe me.

November 1 was not an end but a beginning. If there are issues that arise you all know that you have the most accessible government in the world. We are as democratic as a drawbridge, accessible and consultative to a fault.

I remind the public also that we have also indicated that we would wish to introduce a national identity card.

Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for the length of this statement. I have tried to take you on this rather extended journey for one reason. The reason is to see the context within which this country and its public policy operate.

I have no idea how long I will be allowed to have this platform to explain the cold hard realities of life in The Bahamas.

I started out with the story of the Banks in The Bahamas. The context of that is that we exist in a changing world. There was a time in our country that if you worked for Scotiabank, you could enjoy a job for life.  Today’s employees can no longer assume that in the new realities.

In the new realities immigration is no longer a simple Bahamianization proposition but it is still Bahamians first.  It is our job to monitor compliance with our immigration regulations. We will be vigilant.

In today’s environment, security is paramount for the state and our international partners need to know that we have best practices in security arrangements. Part of this is who belongs to The Bahamas and who has the right to live here.

Grand Bahama has peculiar problems. It has now become a staging area for people from South America and the Far East and Africa to enter the United States using safe houses here.  Special operations are conducted by the Department in this city to put a stop to this.  So there will be operations of a covert nature to catch these criminals.

The laws are going to be toughened and the regulations are going to be

stricter.  If you want a safer Bahamas, that is part of the larger

price that we have to pay.

We all pledge to work together with civil society so that we understand the processes and our thinking.  I promised Mr. Darville that at the earliest opportunity I will ask Pastor Wilbur Outten to convene another of those pastors’ forums to discuss the way forward.

In the meantime, I ask the public and our political directorate for patience.  To quote Margaret Thatcher: “This is not a time to go wobbly. This is a time for patient hope and quiet brave endurance.”

This is a happy time for your new immigration officers and your families. You join the law enforcement of our country today. We expect that you, the inheritors of an independent Bahamas, will do us proud. When I was born, I was born into a colony.  I fought to make us free. It is now up to each of you to defend that freedom.

George Symonette used to say: never mind the noise in the market; always check the price of the fish.

I thank your trainers and the Director for helping to get you to this point.  Now the rest is up to you.

I leave you my best wishes on behalf of the government. I say God bless you all.  Good luck in your careers and God Bless the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.