Categorized | National News

Curbing Illegal Immigration A Top Priority, Mitchell

With nearly 200 illegal Haitian migrants apprehended in Bahamian waters in the past 48 hours the government says finding ways to curb the influx of illegal immigrants remains a top priority.

Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchell told the Bahama Journal yesterday that officials are continuing to “brainstorm” ways to stop Haitians from migrating to The Bahamas.

“I don’t think there’s any short-term solution in solving this problem of illegal immigration,” the minister said.

“We need to [determine] how it is possible for these vessels to make their way up the southern shore of New Providence without being detected. It’s an eight-day journey that these people are taking and some of them stop here while others go on to the United States.”

Mr. Mitchell’s comments come after 79 Haitian nationals were apprehended after their vessel ran aground at the tip of southern New Providence early Tuesday morning.

According to officials, the group included six children.

One of the nationals – a woman – drowned.

“I also need to appeal to Bahamians to be vigilant,” he said. “In this last case, residents saw the boat and brought it to the attention of the authorities and they were able to mobilise efficiently so that’s very important.”

“We will also be doing some public servant announcements to remind people of the need for documentation. People need to have their documents, which give you the right to be in the country because I think we are too slack in our attitude towards this and it is encouraging illegal migration.”

During the interview early Wednesday, Mr. Mitchell received a call informing him that 63 Haitian nationals – 53 men, seven women and three children – were intercepted in the Exuma Cays Wednesday morning.

According to defence force officials, officers from the patrol craft HMBS P-48 spotted a Haitian sloop anchored just off Cistern Cay in the Exuma chain.

Officers later found more migrants on the cay.

Earlier Wednesday, officers from the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) apprehended an additional 30 illegal Haitian migrants in the area of The Hole in the Wall near Sandy Point, Abaco.
According to Jack Thompson, director of immigration, the group that was comprised of 26 men and four women claimed to have travelled from Port-au-Paix, Haiti in a wooded sloop.

Mr. Thompson said that the migrants were examined by medical officials and were found to be in good condition. They were subsequently taken into custody at the Marsh Harbour Immigration office where they were documented and processed for travel to New Providence where they will be housed at the Detention Centre.

“Officers will remain vigilant and will continue to comb the area for additional illegal migrants,” Mr. Thompson said.

Mr. Mitchell said both groups will be repatriated within four days.

Mr. Mitchell also recently met with Haitian President Michel Martelly.

“We met with the president and we raised the issue of dealing with illegal immigration and investments,” he said.

“The more substantive meeting was with their trade minister who asked us about several issues. One of the issues we discussed had to do with allowing the export and import of agricultural goods out of and into Haiti with the view that if the north of Haiti gets some economic activity this would be a solution to stopping people coming here from on these boats.”

Mr. Mitchell also explained that the international community, mainly the United States and Canada have to take a more direct approach at ensuring that Haiti’s economy gets off the ground.

The immigration minister said for this fiscal period, which began on July 1, the government has allocated $1 million for repatriation expenses.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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