By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
IMMIGRATION Minister Keith Bell issued a stern warning yesterday to people living in the country illegally “to wind up” their affairs and leave immediately or face deportation.
Mr Bell told Parliament The Bahamas cannot accept an increasing number of migrants, as doing so would put a strain on our resources, which in turn would reduce the quality of life for all Bahamians.
It is for this reason, he said, the country must ensure that its borders are protected.
His comments come amid public outcry over what some term to be an “immigration crisis” in the country.
On Tuesday, a group of Bahamians, led by political activist Lincoln Bain, protested outside the Office of the Prime Minister, demanding more action from the government to tackle the problem.
“Madam Speaker, statistics from the Department of Immigration showed significant increases in the number of migrants intercepted in the past two years,” Mr Bell revealed.
“In 2021, 226 Cubans were intercepted and repatriated from The Bahamas. In 2022, this number jumped by almost 800 to 1,001 Cubans. Our records also revealed that they experienced the same jump in irregular migrants from Haiti in 2021 whereas 2,290 Haitians were repatriated. In 2022, we saw an increase of over 1,100 persons when 3,349 persons were repatriated.”
Mr Bell repeated that last year was a record-breaking year in terms of repatriations. He had earlier said that some 4,748 migrants were sent back to their home country in 2021.
He also revealed that the government has established a temporary holding facility in Inagua to allow for quicker repatriation exercises.
“Our goal is to ensure that irregular migrants found and intercepted in the southern Bahamas would be repatriated from that island without having to come all the way up here to New Providence,” Minister Bell told parliamentarians.
He added that the government will remain relentless in efforts this year to crack down on shanty towns, while promising more special operations and investigations in the weeks ahead.
“Madame Speaker, over the past decades, successive governments have struggled in restricting the creation and expansion of irregular communities. This is the most serious issue and one which the public rightly demands the government to remedy,” Mr Bell said.
“The honourable minister with responsibility for works and utilities is assiduously working in his ministry’s plan to address this long-standing issue.”
“In the upcoming weeks and months, the Department of Immigration will increase the numbers of special operations occurring and the number of investigations for the following: one, to ensure that all persons living in such communities have legal status in this country.
“And two, to confirm that any permit holders living in such communities are doing so in terms of their applications.”
He warned that any permit holder found in violating terms of their application will be sent back home, emphasising that “The Bahamas is a country governed by a rule of law.”
“The department is presently reviewing our policies to strengthen our investigation and confirmation of the living conditions of all work permit holders. All persons holding work permits in this country must comply with our laws and regulations, including all of our building codes, health and sanitation requirements.”
“When it is shown that the holder of a work permit is living in an irregular community or in other conditions which do not comply with our building or public health guidelines, such permits will be revoked and the holders deported.”
He also advised people against spreading false information, saying there is no room for xenophobia in the country.
“Madam Speaker, I believe that I speak with one voice for all in this honourable place that we remain committed to the protection of our sovereignty and immigration laws,” he said.
“This statement is important as across the world, we have seen the dangers of the rise of fringe groups and their campaigns of misinformation, campaigns that seek to divide and not unite, to destroy and not to build.
“Madam Speaker, the dangers I speak of is not a theoretical debate but a real one - Madame Speaker, we have many legitimate issues which we can discuss and debate. There is no need to manufacture issues.
“There is no place in this country, Madam Speaker, for xenophobia and making reports that have no reasonable basis.”
bahamianson 2 months, 1 week ago
I don't think that warning worked in the past, so why say it. Stop talking and act. The can is down harold road by now.
SP 2 months, 1 week ago
What can? It was kicked into the sea decades ago! These political jackasses are the cause of the problem.
Sickened 2 months, 1 week ago
Unfortunately Mr. Bell will be leaving his post before a significant and meaningful deportation exercise will occur. No government is willing to tackle this issue. In this instance we need Trump to come and sort out this ongoing mess.
bobby2 2 months, 1 week ago
This & previous Gov'ts are nothing except talk. First of all, flood Courts with evidence of non-complying living quarters & request immediate relief from the injunction to tear them down. Any illegals discovered in the exercise should immediately be detained & processed for deportation. Act now,now,now--time for talk has ended.
DDK 2 months, 1 week ago
SOUNDS good. Government needs to follow through. It is WAY past becoming a serious issue. The so-called pandemic was nothing compared with the relentless and ever-increasing invasion of our Islands.
TalRussell 2 months, 1 week ago
What if they demand a Haitian solution that 'must include' the opening of doors that continue to be slammed shut in the face of those adults and childrens' and anything's Haitian?'
That it starts by sincerely working in acceptance alongside the Haitian communities are stretched throughout the islands.
Introduce a 'assimilate without fear policy aims to reassure people with no immigration status that they can access immigration and police services, government departments, health services and schoolings** and do so without made lie out fear they and they elders and childrens' may be reported and ultimately detained before being deported.
A real policy is aimed to **curtail the reach of local enforcement by policemans' and immigration officers.
Do away with the militarisation of immigration.
Made feel they are welcomed to join Bahamian society's mainstream which doesn't require distraction away from the protection of the colony's borders, ---- Yes?
themessenger 2 months, 1 week ago
If "Heinrich" Bell and the government get to implement their "Final Solution" on the local Haitian population, one of the immediate effects will be the total collapse of the construction industry given that most of our Bahamian labor force have a serious adversity to any form of manual labor.
TalRussell 2 months, 1 week ago
@TheMessenger, Comrade, some tings never change.
Why, when Lynden Pindling came to power it was rare Bahamian coloured family to hold work permit for a nanny/maid.
Well, yes, it didn't take long that to change to such a degree it brought about coloureds' hiring gardeners, ---- Yes?
SP 2 months, 1 week ago
So be it. Get rid of ALL ILLEGALS and let the industries collapse. Then we could examine our needs and prepare to rebuild industries sensibly. This stupidity must come to an end before the entire country collapses under the sheer weight of illegals.
Jamaica did it and rebounded stronger. They are now food exporters!
SP 2 months, 1 week ago
Lol, blah, lol, blah, lol, blah, lol blah, blah. Will somebody please tell this empty talking head the illegals have heard this bullshyt warning numerous times over the decades and NOTHING HAS EVER HAPPENED.
ENOUGH BULLSHYT ALREADY. We need to get rid of the PLP, FNM, and the damn illegals.
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