Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield yesterday said The Bahamas will not allow itself to be overtaken by illegal immigration.
“We’re a small developing country, but we will not stand idly by and allow us to be overtaken by any country who is seeking to,” Henfield said when asked about the recent wave of illegal Haitian migration.
He continued, “… You know, I heard someone say yesterday on the news that it is not a security threat, but it is. That is why the issue of illegal immigration is such a rife topic all across the globe. Everywhere you go, people are talking about it because it has to be controlled migration. A government does not plan for illicit migration or illegal migration into its territories.
“We plan for what we know, and so we’re going to find more ways in which to mitigate and stem the flow. I think the defense force is doing a good job. I think we’re going to continue to work as assiduously as we can on the diplomatic front to cause the Haitian government to come to the table and appreciate the efforts that we’re trying to make.”
Over 300 Haitian migrants attempting to enter The Bahamas illegally have been apprehended over the past week, with almost 200 of them captured in the first five days of this year.
Henfield assured that the government is “working on all fronts to mitigate and alleviate” the country’s problem with Haitian migration.
He said the government was reaching out to Haitian policymakers “to explain to them that the way this is happening is unfair to Bahamians, and it has to stop”.
“… We will continue to focus on the borders and we will continue to make diplomatic efforts to cause the Haitian government to appreciate… what this influx is having on The Bahamas,” Henfield said.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis told The Tribune that “this matter… can be a threat not only to our economy, but it can be a threat also to our national security”.
Henfield said Haitian migration is also a threat to The Bahamas socially.
“The unfettered immigration of any people into a small country like ours impacts us on many fronts,” he said.
“We have to invest in security and then the social aspects of it. There’s a threat to our national security along the lines of our economy as well. Socially, people come and they have to go to school – that impacts us.
“They have to have healthcare, [and] that impacts us. There are other issues where [you] have to focus your law enforcement in that particular area, which is a challenge for us.”
On Saturday, Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) officers intercepted a 40-foot sloop with 108 Haitian migrants on board — 92 males and 16 females.
The RBDF also apprehended 124 migrants in waters eight miles south of New Providence on December 30.
On December 31, 116 of those migrants pleaded guilty to illegal landing and were ordered deported.
However, 11 of them, who had previously been deported, will first serve sentences of six months in prison.
On Sunday, Minister of Immigration Brent Symonette said it is not unusual to see an uptick in illegal migrants attempting to enter the country during the holiday season.
“At this time of year, there is a perception that the different forces of immigration, the defense force, police force, may not be as vigilant because of the Christmas season,” Symonette said.
“The apprehensions have proven that wrong… There’s no change in policy. There are people stationed in various parts of The Bahamas. We rely on intelligence and also observations, and persons are apprehended.”