NASSAU, Bahamas, Wednesday February 25, 2015, CMC – The Bahamas government says it new immigration policy is designed to deal with “a sophisticated criminal enterprise” and warned human rights groups here of “unwittingly running interference for that enterprise”.
Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell told Parliament that the Perry Christie government had received the report of the Inter American Commission on Human rights (IACHR) regarding the detention of illegal immigrants and would respond in full at a later stage to it.
But he said that the new immigration policies that came into effect last November “have widespread public support” with the aim of ensuring the national security of the Bahamas as well as “to regularize those who find themselves in a legal Catch 22 where appropriate”.
He said that the new policy is also designed to “exclude from the country those who have no right to live and work here”.
Mitchell said the policy is not targeted at any national group and is generic.
He told legislators that the Bahamas is a signatory to the IACHR and “we are cognizant of the public importance these findings have and how they can influence public opinion and therefore should not be ignored”.
But Mitchell, who is also the Foreign Affairs Minister, said he wanted to remind members of the public that “that they should remain calm in the face of the many provocations about our country that now seem to be piling on.
“When one examines the facts, the public will find that the sources of the information are the same. I repeat what I said earlier that there will be push back to any new policy initiative. We have to steel ourselves to fight the pushback because it is meant to sully the reputation of our country and stop the policies.
“We do not deny that there may be issues surrounding the policies that are open to debate or that can be challenged but we deny that there is any official policy of targeting any national group, nor is there any official sponsoring of abuse of any kind against migrants in this country. The Bahamas remains a welcoming, lawful country.”
Mitchell said that there is an attempt by the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association in particular to paint The Bahamas in an unflattering light.
“Their motivations are unknown but they lack credibility and are disreputable in the process. We will fight any smear of our country with every resource that we have.”
He repeated earlier statements that the idea of portraying the illegal migrants “as poor people escaping from poverty should be juxtaposed against the fact of reports that these trips of illegal migrants cost from US500 dollars to 5,000 dollars a head.
“This means that we are dealing with something which approximates a sophisticated criminal enterprise. Our new policies are disrupting that criminal enterprise. The Grand Bahama Human Rights Association should be careful that they are not unwittingly running interference for that enterprise,” he added.
In its report, the IACHR said that after “analyzing the factual and legal arguments presented by the applicants” it considers that the information presented demonstrates “prima facie that the persons in immigration detention at Carmichael Road Detention Center appear to be in a serious and urgent situation, that places their lives and physical integrity at risk”
The Commission said consequently, in accordance with Article 25 of its Rules of Procedure, the Commission requests that The Bahamas ‘’adopt the necessary measures to ensure the life and physical integrity of the persons in immigration detention at Carmichael Road Detention Center”.
The Commission is also urging Nassau to “provide hygienic conditions and adequate medical treatment to the persons in the facility, according to their respective medical conditions” as well as “adopt the necessary measures to address the special situation of the unaccompanied children, according to international standards”.