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Mitchell Defends Immigration Policy at Human Rights Council Meeting

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell defended the country’s immigration policy at the 28th Session of The High Level Segment of The Human Rights Council yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland.

Mr. Mitchell said the policies The Bahamas have recently put in place on immigration are meant to protect the country’s identity and national security.

“International organizations and non-governmental organizations have all made comments adverse about the policies portraying migrants as victims of a policy which is designed for their welfare as the opposite of what it is.”

“The public should take note of reports that the trips that migrants pay to smuggle their way into The Bahamas and onward can range in prices from $1,500 to $5,000 (USD),” said Mr. Mitchell.

The Foreign Affairs Minister noted that the new policies are blocking a sophisticated criminal enterprise and the non-governmental organizations and activists should be careful that they are not unwittingly running interference for these criminal enterprises.

Mr. Mitchell further added that these organizations risk undermining their credibility and there is a backlash of resentment over assertions which seem designed to damage the reputation of The Bahamas without proper context.

“The government therefore, has taken steps that require that all persons working in The Bahamas have a valid work permit authorizing him or her to reside and work in the country. This action is not unique to The Bahamas, but to all other countries,” said Mr. Mitchell.

Mr. Mitchell added that for the sake of transparency, The Bahamas in September, 2014 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with a view of strengthening migration management and identifying appropriate measures to assist and protect vulnerable migrants.

“This was further reinforced during the visit to The Bahamas by the Deputy Director General of the IOM, who reiterated IOM’s support for regional cooperation to combat irregular migration and smuggling,” said Mr. Mitchell.

Mr. Mitchell also discussed the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children.

“The Bahamas, in its response to the council reiterated the government’s commitment to addressing the concerns articulated in the report and has put in place a multi-sectoral mechanism to combat this crime, particularly with regard to the identification and prosecution of perpetrators and the registering and protection of victims,” said Mr. Mitchell.

The minister of foreign affairs discussed the issue of crime, noting that “The Bahamas, like many other countries, continues to grapple with a high crime rate and although there was a notable decrease in serious crime in The Bahamas in 2014, the government has pledged to do more.”

Mr. Mitchell noted that in September of last year, The Bahamas deposited its instrument of ratification for the Arms Trade Treaty, becoming one of 50 countries to ratify the treaty, allowing it to become enforced in December last year.
He added that this is a significant step in the fight against the illegal drug trade and human trafficking throughout the Latin American and Caribbean regions.

“This collective approach should lead to stricter gun control and will further serve to enhance our national efforts in the fight against crime,” said Mr. Mitchell.

This was the first opportunity for a Bahamian minister of foreign affairs to participate in a High Level Segment of the Human Rights Council outside of the Universal Periodic Review.

The final meeting for the 28th Session of The High Level Segment of The Human Rights Council will be held today.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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