Categorized | National News

Constitution Commission Tackles Citizenship

The 13-member Constitutional Commission on Monday heard from a representative from the United Nations who urged The Bahamas to quickly deal with the issue of stateless people in the country.

A stateless person is someone who is not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law, in other words, a stateless person has no citizenship or nationality.

In The Bahamas, there are thousands of people who fall in this category, a situation that is made more complicated due to The Bahamas’ Constitution.

According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Regional Representative Vincent Cochetel, the fact that the country is seeking to make changes to the constitution provides a unique opportunity to fix an issue that has been long overlooked.

“One of the main points I made was that it’s a priority of the state to determine who is a national of its country,” he said.

“It’s important to make sure that whatever constitutional amendments are made that we don’t end up with a situation where some people could end up in a stateless situation. We know that there are some gaps in the constitution and there are some provision that leads to some situation of statelessness.”

According to The Bahamas’ Constitution, many people are stateless due to being born in the country to parents who are not Bahamian, in which case they can apply for citizenship at age 18, those who illegally enter the country and never get regularised, a man marrying a Bahamian woman and others.

“We believe there is gender inequality in the transmission of citizen from mother to children born abroad and also gender inequality in transmission from woman to foreign spouse here in The Bahamas because some of them might not have a nationality and might be stateless,” Mr. Cochetel added.

“There could be some safeguards in relation to the process to acquire The Bahamas citizenship where you renounce one citizenship before acquiring Bahamas citizenship and if you renounce your citizenship before becoming a Bahamian you would be stateless because the process is long.”

Mr. Cochetel said the problem The Bahamas faces is manageable and urged the government to not muddy the waters in defining immigrants, refugees and stateless people.

He added that one of the main reasons to get this situation under control is a matter of national security.

“I think for any state like The Bahamas, it’s always better to know who is on your territory,” Mr. Cochetel said. “Because of its geographic location and the archipelagic nature of the country it’s very difficult to control migration. The government is trying but it will always remain challenging. You have legal migrants, you have illegal migrants but you also have people who came here two or three generations ago and it’s important to have their situation regularised one way or another.”

Mr. Cochetel knows a lot about what he speaks in terms of being in another man’s country without any sense of belonging or even wanting.

The UN representative was kidnapped and held captive in Russia for 317 days, with more than 23 hours of each of those days spent in darkness.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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