Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday that the unemployment rate in The Bahamas is too high to consider allowing undocumented migrants who enter The Bahamas illegally to work in the country, and he was amazed anyone would make such a suggestion.
He was responding to local human rights activist and attorney Fred Smith, QC, who, last week at an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) hearing on the treatment of migrants in The Bahamas, urged the Bahamian government to consider allowed undocumented migrants to live in communities and work instead of detaining them.
“We have somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 percent unemployment,” he said yesterday outside Cabinet.
“How do we absorb illegals into the workforce?
“And if we pay them low wages, there’s another implication and consequence of that.”
Smith suggested that The Bahamas is large geographically and could use hundreds of thousands more people in order to grow the economy. Turnquest said that makes no sense.
“The fact of the matter is that we cannot absorb any and everybody into this economy,” Turnquest said.
“We are a small nation. Our resources are limited.
“Any suggestion that we ought to just fling open the doors and every and anybody can come is inherently disadvantageous and dangerous and reckless to the Bahamian people.
“It amazes me quite frankly that somebody would make such a suggestion.
“It’s just not reasonable.”
The hearing took place on Friday at the 172nd session of the IACHR in Kingston, Jamaica.
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 was “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”.
The government was represented at the hearing by Minister of State for Legal Affairs Elsworth Johnson.
He called many of the issues raise by Rights Bahamas “unsubstantiated”.