Categorized | National News

GBHRA President Blasts Registration Policy—“Government is Punishing Innocent Children”

Following the announcement of the Ministry of Education’s new registration policy, Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA) President Fred Smith, QC, wasted no time issuing a response stating that the “government is punishing innocent children.”

The registration policy require all school-aged students (ages five to 16 years) to possess either a Bahamian passport, a birth certificate, indicating a mother or father as a Bahamian citizen or a permit authorizing the child to reside in The Bahamas.

However, Smith believes the policy violates the law, prevents children from attending school and with this policy he said the prime minister has betrayed his promise not to deprive children of an education.

In a statement released yesterday, Smith said both Prime Minister Perry Christie and Director of Education Lionel Sands assured recently that no child would be barred from the classroom as a result of any new rules, but the government has turned around and announced measures that will have precisely the opposite effect.

“Though the new rules do not say so in as many words, if student permits are only for those who ‘have a right’ to be in The Bahamas, it follows logically that those who cannot show such a right will be denied the permit and thereby access to education,” Smith said.

However, in an interview with The Bahama Journal yesterday, Sands said at the beginning of the new school year in, September, no student will be disadvantaged and every child in the country will be attending school.

Sands explained that registration begins this month and students who don’t have the required documentation will be given a provisional entry letter and will have until December 31 to obtain a student permit, which will be issued by the Department of Immigration.

However, Smith expressed that the GBHRA “condemns in the strongest possible terms the announcement that children who do not possess student permits by December 2015 will be turned over to the Immigration Department.”

He said the registration policy will exclude the children of undocumented migrants from the classroom, which violates the constitution, and the Education Act.

In Smith’s view, the registration policy suggests that the government may engage in the ethnic cleansing of the society, “particularly of any Haitian element”.

“The policy may not carry the usual connotations of violence associated with this term (though in practice, immigration enforcement in The Bahamas often involves some level of indiscriminate brutality),” Smith said. “Nevertheless, the government’s current actions fit the dictionary’s definition of ethnic cleansing: an attempt to expel or alienate an ethnic minority in an effort to achieve ‘ethnic homogeneity.’”

Smith noted that the director of education can continue to claim that the intent of the registration policy is not to “remove any children from school”.

“The director knows very well that any parent who feels their child does not qualify for the new permits will keep them at home, rather than risk having their children undergo the trauma of being confronted by armed officers in imposing military-style uniforms. He knows better, and should be ashamed of himself,” Smith said.

He also indicated that the Progressive Liberal Party is aware that this policy will result in an increase in the numbers of uneducated and under-educated persons in The Bahamas.

“It seems that they are content to reap the perceived electoral benefits regardless, perhaps because the social ills likely to result from the rise of yet another unskilled underclass will not be their problem, but rather that of future generations,” Smith said.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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