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Dames: Impossible to cover entire nation

Marvin Dames.

There is no such thing as 100 percent coverage of the 100,000 square miles of the Bahamian archipelago, and even developed countries with all their state-of-the-art technology to deter illegal landings are infiltrated from time to time, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said yesterday.

“From Europe to the United States, immigration is something that even challenges developed countries,” said Dames, refering to an empty sloop found on the shoreline of Adelaide Village on Saturday morning.

“This is a big thing around the world now from the U.S. to Canada, to England to France, to Italy, right.

“…We have to take a bigger look at this and we as a government say that we will.

“So, there is the enforcement aspect that we say we will focus on, but there are any number of areas that we must focus on to ensure that this problem… we’re able to manage it effectively.

“Are there things we should be doing better?

“We are looking everyday at how we can improve.

“We will look at this event and we will cause some inquiries to be carried out to see what may have happened and how did this get past us.”

There was no sign of who came on the vessel, which was a short distance from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force’s (RBDF) base.

As of yesterday, authorities had captured nearly 30 illegal migrants, some of whom were believed to have arrived on that sloop.

Dames was asked whether there is any consideration to the migrants being assisted by law enforcement officers given the brazen landing so close to the RBDF base.

“Let me assure you that – and it goes back to the dynamic nature of the business that we are in – every time there is an incident, it is our job to review that incident to determine what may have happened, why it happened, right, and how can we avoid it from happening again,” he said.

“If there is collusion or if there is a conspiracy on behalf of others to carry such acts out then those persons ought to be held accountable.

“That is the dynamic nature of the business that we are in and we accept that.

“So, here is a boat that shows up. This is not the first time.

“Like I said, it has been happening for decades, okay.

“But, I can assure you one thing, that what we will do is we will look into this [and] determine what happened and why it happened; who may know of it and how do we prevent it from happening again.”

Intelligence driven

It was pointed out that the RBDF has benefitted from additional manpower and resources, including the procurement of nine new patrol vessels and new technology in recent years.

The Bahamas also benefits from cooperative activities with the United States, which uses drone and satellite technology, to thwart human and drug trafficking and other transnational crimes.

Dames, a former deputy commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, said there will not always be success with these efforts, “trust me”.

“I have been in this business, and I have first-hand experience,” he noted.

“I have flown these islands and these oceans for hours not seeing a single thing in sight.

“And so, if you want an appreciation of just how expansive this country is you take a tour on one of these helicopters or you take a tour on one of these boats.

“You travel for hours and don’t see anything. But is there anything out there? Of course.

“Always remember that these persons who are trying to evade the law, they have their techniques and strategies too.

“We have to adjust to those techniques and strategies to ensure that we are much better and we are able to interdict them on a more frequent basis.”

According to Dames, the network of individuals in The Bahamas who facilitate and coordinate illegal immigrants is vast.

He said these people must be targeted aggressively and effectively to impact the overall problem of illegal immigration.

But Dames insisted law enforcement cannot stop 100 percent of illicit activity in The Bahamas.
“It doesn’t happen in any country this world over,” he said.

“If it happened, then we would not have an immigration problem.

“The thing is how can we learn from this?

“That ought to be the discussion, not who we beat up.”

Ultimately, Dames said his ministry must drive intelligence, something he said has been lacking for too long.

According to the minister, through a legislated National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the government will create the intelligence capacity to “in the long term assist us in this”.

In the short and medium term, Dames said law enforcement must improve its strategic output because “we can have 100 boats and that’s still not enough to police these islands, this archipelago, over 100,00 square miles of sea”.

“We need to use intelligence to drive our strategy,” Dames pointed out.
He added that he will continue to meet with the Commodore Tellis Bethel to review the RBDF’s strategies.

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