Categorized | National News

Minister Denies Migrants Are Stateless

Immigration Minister Brent Symonette  has  denied that Bahamians of Haitian decent, born in The Bahamas, are stateless, an issue raised by President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) when the Bahamas appeared before the commission in Jamaica last Friday. 

Speaking with reporters recently, Mr. Symonette was asked to respond to the outcome of the meeting where Rights Bahamas activists expressed concern over the treatment, illegal detention and deportation exercises of illegal migrants. 

Although Mr. Symonette opted to reserve commenting on the issue until he has spoken with the Minister of State for Legal Affairs, Ellsworth Johnson, he  did say that one who is born in The Bahamas to illegal parents, first generation, are not stateless.

“If  you look at our immigration policy, if you look at the number of persons we deport you could see it is an issue. 

“There are economic conditions in Haiti that require persons leave [there]. Did they take into consideration the fact that we had a number of them die in Abaco recently? These are real situations that affect each and every one of us. 

“They talked about statelessness for instance and that’s not a provision in certain areas, because a person has the right to apply for citizenship. 

“When you are stateless, in my opinion, I mean you have to be careful on that tight frame, in some countries;  third generation born outside the country are stateless, fine. We can deal with that, but someone who is born first generation, born in the Bahamas has the right to a passport of another country.  They always have that,  so they are not stateless and that’s very clear.

“Now,  whether they want to go and get that passport is a different issue. So, for a commission to say they are stateless, I have a different understanding of the law and what they are saying,” Mr. Symonette explained.

As for the IACHR contending that detaining migrants in not the answer and  instructed that The Bahamas government  not detain migrants, to this Mr. Symonette said he found great difficulty.

“I think unfortunately,  we have to look at the total picture in the Bahamas.  I don’t think a number of persons fully appreciate the influx of illegal immigrants here in The Bahamas and the cost. 

“For instance, a boat load of 100 persons arrives  on our shore today,  are we supposed to let them walk around the streets until we decide when to repatriate them? These are the issues. 

“We have 100,000 square miles of water, illegal immigration is a large problem. We spend about $1.6 million a year repatriating non-Bahamians. 

“I have difficulty when any international organization tries to force a sovereign country to do things which are not in the best interest of that country,” Mr. Symonette said.

Rights Bahamas during the172nd Ordinary Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Commission On Human Rights, placed special  emphasis on the new immigration policy launched in November 2014, which they say illegally required everyone in The Bahamas to have a passport and documentation proving their right to reside and work in the country. Emphasis was also placed on the aggressive raids and roundups that followed the new policy. 

The group’s application also noted that the government has admitted to deporting at least five individuals to Haiti who were born in The Bahamas and have a constitutional right to citizenship.

The human rights group filed in conjunction with Washington  D.C  based Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Organization.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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