Bahamas Immigration Policy Causing Concern Amongst Government Officials
NASSAU, Bahamas — The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organization of American States (OAS) have both expressed concerns, at the diplomatic level, about the new immigration policy in The Bahamas that has touched such a nerve in some sectors of the international community.
Prime Minister Perry Christie confirmed that international agencies had indeed expressed that concern directly to the government.
Guardian Business understands that the policy, which came into force on November 1 and involves a requirement for immigrants to be able to produce a passport from their home country or risk deportation, has caused concern about the possibility that the policy amounts to discrimination against Bahamian-born Haitian children.
As The Guardian understands it, concerns about “raids” by the Immigration Department are secondary, but do exist.
“The policy has to be explained to international agencies,” Christie said. “Some international agencies have spoken to us about it, and I expect the minister of foreign affairs to (begin) addressing this issue internationally, to those groups that are important to the country that they understand what we are doing.”
The position of the Bahamian officials is that the concern raised by agencies like Amnesty International, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, the OAS and the CARICOM caucus is clearly based on “misinformation” and “misunderstanding” that have led to premature—and erroneous—conclusions.
Christie said the minister of foreign affairs would be sent to Washington, DC, to clarify for international partners what is happening in The Bahamas.
“We do not propose to have, and be accused—justly—of inhumane treatment. That’s not our intention, and we do not want that to be seen to be the case,” Christie told reporters recently. “We want to be responsible, but at the same time, we have the primary interest of protecting the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell told the House of Assembly on Wednesday that he had been authorized by the Cabinet to speak with the Bahamian community in Miami on Saturday and to meet with the secretary general at the Organization of American States and the CARICOM Caucus in Washington “at the earliest opportunity.”
Guardian Business also understands that the matter may be causing tension within the CARICOM caucus of the OAS in Washington. It is possible that the Dominican Republic could accuse CARICOM of hypocrisy, since CARICOM was the constituency that initiated accusations against that country for the September ruling of its Constitutional Court which the CARICOM—including The Bahamas—said rendered thousands of Dominican-born Haitians stateless.
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