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Human rights hearing ‘ill-founded’, AG says

Local human rights group Rights Bahamas’ application for a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on the treatment of migrants in The Bahamas was “ill-founded and irrational”, Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday.

“The Bahamas will be fully represented there,” he said.

“We will have a legal team, and minister of state will be there to show the political commitment.

“The Bahamas is in this instance faced with an ill-founded and irrational application for a thematic review, a general review of immigration law, policies etc. I think it was in 2014, we were subjected to a similar exercise.

“All of the defects that were identified in terms of the detention center have long been corrected. They were corrected right up until early this year.”

The hearing is set to take place in Kingston, Jamaica, on May 10 as part of the 172nd Ordinary Period of Sessions of the IACHR, which is an independent organ of the Organization of American States (OAS).

The request for the hearing was filed by Rights Bahamas in conjunction with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, which is headquartered in Washington, DC.

Rights Bahamas said the hearing is “in light of the many reports of human rights abuses, illegal detention and deportation exercises, the implementation of racist and xenophobic policies, the targeting of persons of Haitian descent born in The Bahamas, denial of the right to school to children of migrants and the ongoing inhumane and unsanitary conditions at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre”.

Bethel highlighted improvements at the detention center, and said he believes The Bahamas will do well at the hearing.

“We’ve brought in a lot of safety measures,” he said.

“Safe houses were developed. A clinic has been set up at the detention center, and we have made incredible improvements.

“The bedding has been changed so that no longer can items in the bedding be forged into weapons. It’s all done properly. There are cooling units in the various dormitories. There is segregation of the sexes.

“Children and their mothers are separated from the general population, so there have been vast improvements in the quality of the services extended to immigrant populations at the detention center.”

He added, “And certainly all of the protocols are followed when there is any suggestion of human or sex trafficking or anything of that nature.

“So we are confident that The Bahamas will do very well in this review, and we will continue to live up to our international obligations.”

Rights Bahamas also cited the government’s shantytown demolition policy as grounds for the hearing.

The government last year gave residents of most shantytowns on New Providence until August 10 to leave before demolition was set to begin.

However, in August, Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson granted an injunction blocking the demolition of shantytown structures in New Providence.

There remains a deadline of July 31, 2019 for the eradication of shantytowns in Abaco.

Rachel Knowles

Staff Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues.
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish
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