Categorized | National News

‘Persons with Legal Status Should Rebuild Abaco’

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper urged persons living in The Bahamas with legal status to move to Abaco to assist with rebuilding and recovery efforts.

“It is the PLP’s policy that you should have legal status if you want to live and work in The Bahamas.  We do not see any reason to distinguish or discriminate based on nationality either.  The same law must apply to all,” Cooper said yesterday during the PLP’s Marathon Branch Meeting.

Since the passage of Hurricane Dorian, many Bahamians questioned whether undocumented migrants would be repatriated or allowed to work in The Bahamas.

Cooper said, “There are thousands of young, able-bodied Bahamian men and women and people with status looking for work who cannot find it.  They must be given the first opportunity to rebuild Abaco and Grand Bahama.  They must be first considered for jobs that will arise in the recovery and rebuilding effort.”

He added, “It is not xenophobia to ask that people come into your country the legal way and abide by your laws while they are here.”  

Yesterday, the Department of Immigration issued a statement advising that the government is 

obliged to follow the law as outlined in The Bahamas Immigration Act.

“The public is further advised that non-nationals seeking employment in The Bahamas must be approved by the Immigration Department and that applications for the issuance of the first work permit will not be accepted or considered unless the individual is physically present and resident in his or her country of origin at the time that the first application is made,” the statement said.

“It is a criminal offense to harbor a person in contravention to the Immigration Act, which may result in a fine not exceeding $10,000 or a prison sentence of up to five years or both.”

The statement added that “the applicant for a new work permit, or the renewal of an existing work permit, by a prospective employer of a non-Bahamian worker, will be required to satisfy immigration officials that satisfactory living accommodations have been arranged by that employer on behalf of the prospective worker, and that the said worker will not become a charge on the state or be permitted to live in sub-standard housing.”

“Any person found in The Bahamas in contravention of the immigration laws will be subject to arrest, criminal proceedings, and, where applicable, detention and deportation,” the statement said.

Also agreeing with the immigration laws was PLP Chairman Senator Fred Mitchell, who believes the laws must be obeyed by all and strictly enforced by the government. 

“There is no reason or set of extenuating circumstances that we see to justify any deviation from standard operating procedures to deal with any illegal immigrant. Further, there is no reason in immigration enforcement to discriminate against or distinguish between nationalities. The enforcement regime must be applied evenly and fairly across the board,” Mitchell said yesterday.

“The only qualifying question is whether or not a migrant has the legal right to reside and or work in The Bahamas. If he or she does not, then under Bahamian law they are required to return home or be repatriated by the state.”

While many migrants affected by Hurricane Dorian resided in The Mudd and Pigeon Peas shantytowns in Abaco, Cooper said Bahamians should never allow a shantytown to exist in the country.

“They are not humane or fit for humans to live and be socialized.  For far too long we’ve allowed our immigrant brothers and sisters to live in wretched conditions. This must end. As must this blatant disregard for the law,” he said. 

Written by Jones Bahamas

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