Proposed bill expands reasons for citizenship refusal
Proposals to the immigration laws, drafted by the Law Reform Commission, add new grounds on which a person can be refused citizenship of The Bahamas, but also obligates the minister of immigration to provide reasons for the rejection.
The new provision, which is included in clause 17 of the draft Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, 2018, expands the existing grounds to include actives such as terrorism, human and drug trafficking and gang involvement.
Another provision was added to give the minister of immigration the authority to refuse the registration or naturalization of citizenship to anyone pursuant to the provisions of the constitution and this act, if he deems that it is not conducive to the public good that the applicant should be a citizen.
According to Law Reform Commissioner Dame Anita Allen, “This provision was added to answer the criticism of the Privy Council that the exercise of the discretion to refuse on the basis that it was not conducive to the public good, had to be linked to one of the prescribed grounds.”
Allen was referring to the controversial case of D’Arcy Ryan vs the Minister of National Security.
Ryan, who had been living in The Bahamas since 1947, applied to become a citizen of The Bahamas in 1974. He was married to a Bahamian and had seven children.
His application was refused, but he sought recourse in the Supreme Court, which ruled that the decision of the minister was a nullity and referred the matter back to the minister. The government appealed. However, the Court of Appeal and Privy Council upheld the decision.
Lord Diplock, writing for the Privy Council in 1979, said that, “A declaration that the final words of the proviso to section seven of The Bahamas Nationality Act, 1973, viz: ‘or if for any other sufficient reason of public policy he is satisfied that it is not conducive to the public good that the applicant should become a citizen of The Bahamas’ are inconsistent with the Constitution of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and are void.”
Despite the Privy Council’s ruling, the government did not issue Ryan a Bahamian passport until 1993.
The new bill further requires that the minister give reasons for his refusal.
“Where the minister refuses an application for citizenship pursuant to section 17, he shall assign written reasons for his refusal, and such reasons shall include any findings on any material issues of fact made by him,” the bill reads.
“The minster shall, upon assigning his reasons in writing, notify the applicant of his decision and disclose to him the reasons for that decision.”
However, this would not apply if the minister certifies that the decision was made wholly or partly in reliance on information which in his opinion should not be disclosed, in the interest of national security, of the relationship between The Bahamas and another country, or otherwise public interest.
Additionally, any person aggrieved by the minister’s decision to refuse an application for citizenship may, within 28 days of receipt of a notification, appeal to the Supreme Court.