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Christie urges gun manufacturing countries to act

Underscoring the enormous threat that arms trafficking poses to The Bahamas, Prime Minister Perry Christie has called on gun producing countries to enhance efforts to restrict illegal firearms trafficking.

Christie made that appeal during his address at the 68th Regular Session of The United Nations General Assembly in New York on Saturday.

He also used the opportunity to remind the global community of the need to eliminate poverty and structural imbalances that impede economic growth within certain sections of the Caribbean. He said as long as these disparities persist, illegal immigration to the shores of countries that are comparatively more prosperous will continue to grow.

As it relates to gun trafficking, Christie said that the issue is of “special concern” to The Bahamas. He noted that there has been a continuing influx of guns and an increase in gun-related criminality in The Bahamas and throughout the region.

“As a world community there is, I am convinced, a great deal more that we can and should be doing to fight this common menace,” Christie said.

“… And to those countries that produce the guns that end up taking innocent lives and causing terror in our communities, we implore them to become more proactive in controlling the export of guns. We implore them to step up the policing of their own borders against arms traffickers.

“We therefore call for more robust surveillance and reconnaissance measures to be instituted.”

More than 80 percent of people murdered in The Bahams die as a result of gunshot injuries.

Christie noted that the country already has joint anti-drug operational activities with the United States.  However, he said more resources ought to be employed in a region-wide effort to fight crime.

“In particular, we call for a massive increase in joint tactical operations so that more air and maritime assets can be consistently deployed so that the thousands of square miles that comprise the territorial waters of Caribbean states can be more effectively patrolled.

He said The Bahamas stands ready to play its part in these joint efforts.

Turning to illegal migration, Christie said the matter is of the “highest national priority” for the government.

“We in The Bahamas, suffer from the illegal migration of tens of thousands of desperate people from our sister CARICOM state of Haiti, an exodus driven by crushing poverty,” he said, adding that the country also has a problem with illegal migration from other Caribbean countries, including Cuba.

“At a time when it is imperative that we invest in the education and health and future of my people, we are forced instead to devote an ever-growing share of our resources to the problems associated with illegal migration,” he said.

In the past decade, repatriations have cost the government more than $15 million, an immigration report revealed.

Christie added that the government is concerned about the increasingly unsustainable cost that are being incurred and the resulting erosion in the quality of life for Bahamians.

“Our country simply does not have the financial resources and infrastructural capacity, much less the psychological stamina, to endure this dilemma indefinitely,” he said.

In closing, Christie urged more developed nations to keep their promises to The Bahamas.

“But as we look beyond the borders of our nation and of the region to gaze upon the global scene, we see much eloquence and many handshakes and the ceremonial signing of one treaty after another,” he said. “Rarely, however, do we see concrete steps, or enforcement mechanisms with teeth.

“…So as the leader of a small but proud nation, I say to the big and powerful nations: Find your courage because the hour grows late.”

Christie also used his address at the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in Trinidad in June to push the United States and other developed countries to do more to help the region fight crime.

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