The Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA) has called on the Office of the Attorney General to launch an immediate investigation and possible prosecution over claims that the passports of thousands of foreign workers were withheld as a means of controlling their movement.
The group said forced labour is a form of modern day slavery that is widely condemned by the international community and called on law enforcement to look into the labour practices employed in the construction of the Baha Mar Resort.
“In making this startling revelation about the construction of Baha Mar and the withholding of Chinese workers’ passports, the deputy prime minister said that several complaints have been looked into. We call on the attorney general to immediately disclose the outcome of those inquiries to the public and launch a full investigation into the labour practices used during the project in question,” said the GBHRA.
“The government has admitted it was aware that the legal rights of thousands of individuals may have been violated on Bahamian soil, and may continue to be violated, yet no action has been taken. This is simply unacceptable and must be remedied immediately.
“If what DPM Davis has said is true, there have been multiple clear violations of Trafficking in Persons Act, each of which carries a possible prison sentence of three to 10 years. The Office of the Attorney General must do its job without fear or favour and prove that no one is above the law.”
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), forced labour and human trafficking are key components in the practice of modern slavery that today affects almost 21 million people around the world. Almost 19 million of those victims are exploited by employers – just as has been claimed in the case of Baha Mar.
“The public must realise how serious this is. Unbeknownst to the vast majority of Bahamians, the construction of that resort may have placed this country at the crux of one of the most vexing and dangerous problems facing the international community today,” the group said.
“The ILO has just passed a landmark Forced Labour Protocol and raising awareness of the issue was the theme of the United Nations’ most recent International Day in December 2016.
“The whole world is focused on combatting modern day slavery, yet somehow, The Bahamas learns this vile practice has been going on, perhaps on a massive scale, on our shores and under our very noses. The government simply cannot allow this to pass unchallenged. They must demonstrate that the rule of law still exists in this country.”
The group also called on Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell to defend the country’s reputation abroad by announcing to the world that the Government of The Bahamas will take urgent and definitive action on this issue and ensure that justice will be done.