MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANSWERS THE JAMIACA OBSERVER
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treat times;”>25th November 2014
Re: Article 21st November On Bahamas Immigration Policy
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs took note of the story at caption that appeared in your newspaper.
The story contains a number of assertions for which we should provide the facts as we know them to be for the record about the Immigration policies of the Bahamas Government.
We are concerned that the Jamaica Observer seems to have accepted uncritically as statements of fact, what we believe we can objectively show are inaccurate and inflammatory statements by the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association.
The fact is there are no immigration “round ups” in the dead of night occurring in The Bahamas. The policy is not indiscriminate and lawful residents of The Bahamas are not adversely affected as the story claims.
In pursuance of their mandate in law, Immigration Officers conduct routine checks and interdiction exercises. They have the authority to arrest people where there is a reasonable suspicion of an offence having been committed, in the process of being committed or about to be committed. That is the same standard in Jamaica’s constitution.
Immigration enforcement is humane; the policies are generic in their application and no specific national group is being targeted. The Bahamas government does not sanction the abuse of detainees and there have not been any reported cases of abuse in connection with the enforcement of this policy. All of the political parties, opposition parties included have supported that assertion.
We point out also that the constitution of The Bahamas does not automatically confer citizenship on persons born in The Bahamas to non-Bahamian parents. While many may disagree with this, that has been a fact of life since our country gained its independence in 1973.
In the interest of transparency and accountability, the Bahamas Foreign Minister has met with representatives from the International Organization on Migration (IOM) and is scheduled to meet with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States and CARICOM shortly. It is hoped that the meeting with the OAS Secretary General will disabuse him of any concerns in this matter.
We append the policy statement which came into effect on 1st November. You will see that this has nothing to do with revoking anyone’s citizenship.
The Bahamas is an open democratic society with nothing to hide.
I trust that in the interest of balance you will be able to publish our position on this matter.
(Acting) Permanent Secretary
For ease of reference, following is a copy of the public service announcement outlining the immigration policy.
The public is reminded that as of 1st November 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 of their home country or the nearest Consular Office of The Bahamas
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. 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, 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.