Categorized | National News

Mitchell Meets Haitian President Human Smuggling/Illegal Immigration Top Discussion

Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell is hoping to come up with a concrete plan to address the country’s ongoing illegal immigration and human smuggling woes with help from Haitian President Michel Martelly.

The two men yesterday discussed the possibility of a joint commission as the ideal solution to both issues.

“There is no question that human smuggling is a serious issue for us and we have to do everything possible to discourage it,” the minister told the Bahama Journal ahead of Thursday’s meeting with President Martelly.”

“In the negotiations to settle a treaty between us and Haiti, I will probably have to go to Haiti, but at this stage we have to see what the willingness of the other side is, make a formal request to them and then move forward. But, the issue of smuggling needs to be discussed and the Haitian Ambassador to The Bahamas will no doubt be included on the way forward.”

The minister said if established, a joint commission would meet every six months and include various technical teams.

“We need to try and see if we can monitor this situation and this would include increasing the diplomatic presence in Haiti, so that we can have more knowledge about what’s going on in the north of Haiti, which is where the smuggling comes from to our country,” he said.

Talk of tackling human smuggling comes on the heels of the June 10 boating tragedy off the north coast of Abaco where at least 11 Haitians were killed after their vessel capsized.

Reports are that passengers paid as much as $5,000 each to leave Abaco for Florida.

Minister Mitchell has since promised that the government will take a more stern approach when it comes to prosecuting smugglers.

“…One has to look at the grievous offenses and I committed also to seeking to move the penalty phase of this to another level to review the penalties to determine whether the penalties are sufficient and where they are deemed not to be sufficient, to increase those penalties,” he said at the time.

The minister is attending the 33rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

“The Bahamas is in support of the development of Haiti and is helping to fund the CARICOM Haiti office,” the minister said.

This issue was discussed during a meeting between both parties yesterday.

Foreign Policy Co-ordination in CARICOM is also high on the agenda at it relates to the ongoing changes in global, political and economic circumstances.

CARICOM heads will discuss various issues including the regional economy as well as a bid by the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago to have the Treaty of Chaguaramas amended for them to access the criminal side of the Caribbean Court of Justice.

According to Minister Mitchell, there are some interests in The Bahamas joining the criminal jurisdiction of that high court. 

The Bahamas will also participate in the discussions on agriculture.

As for becoming a member of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), the minister said Cabinet does not agree with going any further with this protocol.

Mr. Mitchell is representing Prime Minister Perry Christie at the three day conference.

Mr. Christie was unable to attend due to the death of his mother-in-law Trixie Hanna.

Accompanying Minister Mitchell on the trip are Minister of State for Finance, Michael Halkitis; Minister of State for Legal Affairs, Damian Gomez and Foreign Affairs officers, Nicole Archer and Charmaine Williams.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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