New immigration overhaul bill may come in August
The consultations on the draft Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, 2018, are expected to close at the end of June and a second draft is expected to be completed by mid-August, said Law Reform Commissioner Dame Anita Allen yesterday.
The government’s proposed new legislation proffers sweeping changes to the country’s immigration laws in an attempt to fix the long-standing problem of statelessness and the rights of Bahamians to pass on their citizenship.
“…I can confirm that consultations on the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill will close at the end of June,” Dame Anita told The Nassau Guardian.
“And we will then prepare a second draft of the bill for presentation to the government.”
She added that she is hoping to have the second draft of the bill completed by mid-August to be ready in time for the next legislative period.
“There will be some changes,” she continued.
“We did get a lot of feedback which we have to consider and we see changes are needed or will be required to the bill as drafted.
“So, we’ll see.”
Dame Anita said she is also awaiting feedback from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Under the proposed new immigration laws, those who were born in The Bahamas after July 9, 1973 to parents who were not Bahamian, and failed to apply to be registered as citizens by their 19th birthday, would lose that right and would have six months after the law takes effect to apply for some form of status or risk being deported.
Some human rights activists have taken issue with this ultimatum in the bill, while others see it as a greater incentive for individuals born to non-Bahamian parents to apply for citizenship.
President of the League of Haitian Pastors Dr. Jean Paul Charles has said that he would like to see an extension of the timeline to register for status after the law takes effect.
The new law establishes a “right of abode”, or a right to live, in The Bahamas for anyone born in The Bahamas to foreign parents while they are a minor – before they reach age 18.
It also establishes a right to live in The Bahamas for anyone born legitimately outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian mother, while that person is still a minor.
These minors would be able to apply for a resident belonger’s permit which could be approved by the immigration director, “provided that such an applicant is in the custody and care of a parent or guardian who has the right of abode in The Bahamas”.
The bill, which is 123 pages, would repeal the Bahamas Nationality Act and the Immigration Act.
It would also establish provisions for those seeking asylum in The Bahamas.
The bill also establishes more clearly who is allowed to land in The Bahamas and the power of immigration officers to grant permission to land and reside in The Bahamas.