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2,000 new citizens

The Ingraham adminstration granted citizenship to at least 1,927 non-Bahamians since it came to office in 2007, a figure approaching the 2,038 people granted citizenship during the Christie adminstration, according to Department of Immigration figures.

The vast majority of those granted citizenship this year (558) were former Haitian nationals.

Former Jamaicans (94) accounted for the second largest category.

However, the total number of people granted citizenship since May 2, 2007 is higher, as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette admitted the Department of Immigration has been lagging behind in keeping track of the numbers.

Symonette, who was speaking at a press conference yesterday, could not provide naturalization numbers for the last six months of 2010.

He said yesterday that 783 of the 896 people whose applications for citizenship were considered this year were approved.

Four of the people whose applications for citizenship were considered this year were denied outright; 71 were granted permanent residency; 33 were allowed to maintain their current status; and five people were deferred until further investigations could be conducted.

Symonette previously said that 1,144 people were granted citizenship between May 2, 2007 and  June 30, 2010.

“In the calendar year 2010, 332 persons were granted permanent residency by reason of being spouses of Bahamians,” said Symonette. “That was an area where we had people waiting 10 to 20 years. It’s now down on average to six to eight years.”

For 2011, he said that 338 spouses were granted permanent residency.

Symonette said that 7,883 people were considered for work permits last year and 6,686 were approved.

“The largest category of those were handymen at 2,720 and housekeepers at 1,871,” he said.

“The persons normally in those two categories [are] Jamaicans and Haitians.”

Previously, Symonette denied there was a political motivation behind the push to naturalize hundreds of non-Bahamians so close to a general election.

“This is a thrust [to] make sure persons who feel they’re Bahamian in all sense of the word can get regularized because [their files] have been languishing in filing cabinets for years,” said Symonette in July.

Director of Immigration Jack Thompson also spoke to the issue of repatriation yesterday.

“So far for the year, 2,784 persons have [been] repatriated.  Of course, the three major nationalities were Haitians at 2,117 followed by Jamaicans 236, Dominicans 203 and others 228,” Thompson said.

He also revealed the costs of the repatriations.

“Last fiscal year, we had $1 million set aside for that in our budget.  [Of that] we have expended $942,202.

“This budget year (July to present) we have $1 million again, and we have spent so far, $193,533.”

Symonette said, “I think it is fair to say that there is an increase in the number of persons trying to reach The Bahamas.

“Yes.  It does pose a threat because they are out on the seas and as we know the last couple of days [there has] been bad weather,” he said.

“So these people are risking their lives and we are doing our best to apprehend them before they get into the community.”

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