STATEMENT BY FRED MITCHELL On Immigration Policies
find times;”>This briefing is to address a number of matters relating to the policies of the Department of Immigration in The Bahamas and how they are being applied.
As a first step though I want to address the issue of the complaint against the Memories General Manager.
As you know this is a matter that is first managed by the Ministry for Grand Bahama and continues to be so managed. An investigation was ordered into the complaints given that the public is agitated about the alleged insults to the children of this city by that manager.
The Department of Labour was called in however to deal with issues that arose with the staff. The Minister of Labour has indicated that the Department of Labour does not have the jurisdiction to deal with the issue of the insult to the children but does have the jurisdiction to deal with the issue of a number of complaints relating to labour relations.
That report is now complete and it has made certain recommendations. The Department of Immigration has been called upon in the report and they are studying the report and any necessary actions will be taken shortly.
I leave it there for the moment, unless Dr. Darville has anything to add to the matter.
I think during the Q & A, you may be able to delineate what the general policy is on these matters from this minister without my having to address this specific case, due to legal concerns.
Let me say also as a general point that insulting children and their musical director is a serious matter particularly when as it has this has raised the ire of the community. The community in Freeport seems united on that point.
As you will see abusive conduct is in my view prima facie grounds for the revocation of the status on a non-Bahamian in this country. We must however be certain of the facts and never move in an arbitrary or capricious fashion. The situation in my view has gotten out of hand in too many instances where people think that by coming here and getting status that they can speak to people in any way shape or form and deal with them in an abusive and preemptory manner.
I wish also to congratulate the Department of Immigration and all its officers for the stalwart and yeoman’s work done on behalf of this country and guarding its borders. This has been a challenging a difficult year and I do not think that it is going to get any easier. I think that 2016 will be even tougher.
This year we repatriated some 5,398 to their home countries.
The nationalities break down as follows:
Turks & Caicos
Right now in the detention centre there are 237 persons.
I again raise the issue of Cuban nationals coming here. We have too many in the Detention Centre and it is posing a security issue for us. Yesterday there were several incidents which led to the police being called at the Centre. We are seeking to have these people expelled from the country as quickly as possible.
I am indebted to the Director of Immigration William Pratt and the staff, the Assistant Director here Hubert Ferguson and all the offers around the country for what they do. I want them to know that the government is proud of their efforts. I would like to congratulate Kirk Neely for the work he does in heading the Enforcement section of the Department.
Next year, I know the country expects us to be even more aggressive in dealing with the course of illegal immigration.
This will include work not only to stop the breaches of the border from the south of us, but the more insidious attempts by high priced lawyers and their friends to confuse the immigration policies in an attempt to bankrupt the government. We have several cases which are being litigated now in Freeport which we hope will clarify once and for all the status of the immigration laws.
We are already seeking to design and move amendments to be sure that there is no doubt that the Department of Immigration has the final say on who has a right to come a and live in this country.
Here is the proposition that I put in the House of Assembly on 21 December and I repeat here:
What is the Department of Immigration to do where the following obtains?
Someone is landed as a tourist and
has no work permit;
That someone violates continually the immigration laws on the basis that he or she owns property here;
That someone boasts that he or she has immigration in their back pockets up to the highest level and will he or she go nowhere no matter what is done by officials and will use the court system to outstay the present political administration in power;
That someone continually verbally abuses and threatens Bahamians and makes racist remarks about them and politically charged remarks about the country and its officials.
In these circumstances when complaints are made to the Department what should the response of the Department of Immigration do?
Under the existing way of operation, an individual can be given a choice to be formally deported or to be invited to leave the country voluntarily. The latter choice is often preferred because it at least preserves the possibility of a return to The Bahamas. In the former scenario, the individual is automatically restricted from returning to The Bahamas.
Mr. Speaker, I say no more at this stage and I leave the Bahamian public to consider this further and particularly the people of Grand Bahama.
We will continue to act according to law.
I now say that the Ministers view is that anyone who fits into that category should be summarily expelled from The Bahamas without more.
We will however continue to act according to law.
I open the floor to questions.