Any person who assists in illegal landing in The Bahamas or the harboring of illegal entrants into The Bahamas would face stiff penalties, including imprisonment, under the proposed Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill 2018.
The new provision makes a person liable for assisting, organizing, facilitating or providing material support or resources for securing entry or continued residence into the country of any person who they know has no entitlement to enter or remain in the country.
Those individuals would be “liable on summary conviction (magistrate’s court) to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both such fine and imprisonment, or on conviction on information (Supreme Court) to a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years or to both such fine and imprisonment”.
The clause further creates offenses for anyone who makes a false statement or uses any document known to be false for the purpose of assisting or facilitating the unlawful entry or residence in The Bahamas; and anyone who knowingly assists individuals in breaching a deportation order to secure a person’s illegal entry into The Bahamas or to secure illegal residence in The Bahamas.
Additionally, if a person knowingly harbors, conceals or gives shelter to anyone who they believe entered or remained in the country illegally, they would be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
The clause notes that in any proceeding, the accused individual cannot use as a defense the fact that the person harbored, sheltered or concealed was in possession of a permit or a document entitling them to enter and remain in The Bahamas, unless they can further show that they exercised due diligence to also ascertain that the permit or document was valid.
The provision seeks to address a longstanding issue of illegal landings in the country.
The Law Reform Commission, headed by Dame Anita Allen, drafted the proposed legislation, which is now out for public consultation.
The clause in the bill would also cover those harboring people who had lost the right to be in The Bahamas by not applying for status within six months of the act becoming law.
For instance, someone who was born in The Bahamas to foreign parents but had failed to apply to be registered as a citizen by their 19th birthday but does not apply within the six-month period after enactment of the new law, would be considered illegally in The Bahamas.
Anyone found to be knowingly harboring or helping such a person would also be in violation of the law and subject to fines and jail time.