Categorized | National News

QC Agrees With PM’s Statement on Immigration

President of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA) Fred Smith, QC, said an effective immigration policy must start at a country’s border therefore, he agrees with Prime Minister Perry Christie’s statement on immigration, given at the recent Summit of the Americas in Panama.

“We are in total agreement with Mr. Christie’s assessment that human trafficking is a sophisticated criminal enterprise that threatens the national security of The Bahamas, as is the case for many nations around the world,” Smith said in a statement yesterday.

“This is precisely why we have said, from the outset, that any effective immigration policy must start at the border.”

According to Smith, the GBHRA implores the prime minister to live up to his words in Panama and concentrate law enforcement efforts at the border to fight the scourge of human trafficking, while implementing a system to identify undocumented migrants already in the country that is efficient, transparent, lawful and humane.

He explained that human smugglers are in the business of transporting people into sovereign national territories without the proper permission.

Therefore, Smith said, the problem must be addressed at its source, cutting off the trafficking routes and intercepting and prosecuting the perpetrators.

Smith also urged the prime minister and his colleagues to cease from promulgating the “unlawful” and “unconstitutional” immigration policy.

He said the GBHRA finds it curious that the prime minister would strongly defend the government’s current immigration enforcement policy.

“The policy is quite clearly not focused on protecting the border, interrupting trafficking rings, or detaining the smugglers themselves,” Smith said.

He expressed that the policy focuses on high profile raids, round-ups and roadblocks, targeting established communities where Bahamians, documented and undocumented migrants, and individuals of Haitian descent have lived “shoulder to shoulder” for many years.

The GBHRA president said from a national security perspective, the government’s approach to addressing illegal migration makes “no sense at all”.

“It is the equivalent of trying to fight the drug trade by attacking whole residential neighbourhoods where some drug users may or may not live, harassing and terrifying innocent and guilty alike, instead of going after the drug dealers and drug smugglers themselves,” Smith said.

“The government has made much of the fact that human trafficking can be big business for the perpetrators. It is unlikely, therefore, that many of them are forced to live in local shanty towns.”

He added that this is why the GBHRA has said repeatedly since last year that the current policy will never solve the problem of undocumented immigration.

“Indeed, we believe it was never intended to resolve the problem. Rather, it aimed at creating the mere illusion of meaningful action on an issue of public concern, in a bid to revive the PLP’s (Progressive Liberal Party) waning political support. From the start, the policy was all show, no substance,” Smith said.

He added that the country’s border remains porous and undocumented persons continue to arrive to The Bahamas.

“The government’s approach is like trying to bail out a sinking boat with a spoon, without first plugging the gaping crack in the hull,” Smith said.

“If the government really wants to end undocumented immigration, they should go after the networks of human smugglers, not communities where women and children live.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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