Haitian Chargé d’Affaires Dorval Darlier yesterday charged that Haitians convicted of minor immigration offences should not be sent to prison.
Darlier said he met with Attorney General Carl Bethel last week and expressed this concern.
“We discussed a lot of things,” the Haitian diplomat told The Nassau Guardian.
“I think that the first point of view is that some people are in Fox Hill for minor things like the immigration matter.
“I know that The Bahamas is a country of law, but sometimes you have to see it like the humanitarian way because…there isn’t a major crime.”
When asked what would be a more appropriate penalty for the migrants, Darlier said, “They should go to the detention center and be repatriated to Haiti. In fact, they don’t have to spend time in Fox Hill.”
Darlier said it is harsh to send Haitians to prison for petty offences.
He said that imprisoning migrants will be costly for the government.
“As I said, it’s a load for the Bahamian government,” Darlier said.
“If you keep someone in jail, you are to take care of them. You are to feed [them]. I think it’s [better] for the government to just send them back.”
He added, “It’s not a big deal. It’s not a big crime. Just ship them back, send them back to Haiti. This is one of the main concerns that we were discussing.”
In July, five people were accused of conducting a fraudulent marriage scheme aimed at getting status for Haitian immigrants.
In recent weeks, at least two dozen Haitians have been convicted with a variety of immigration violations and sent to the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services.
The Tribune reported that on October 16, Senior Magistrate Carolyn Vogt-Evans said that court fines do not seem to be a deterrent to illegal immigration, nothing that undocumented migrants will “go to jail for a longer time” if they keep coming to her court.
Asked to respond to Darlier’s statement, the attorney general said last night, “I wouldn’t dream of giving directions to the court of law.
“I’m a lawyer. I make submissions before a court, you know, representing the state, let’s say. But I’m not before any court making any submissions.”
He added, “I’m just making the point that…[it] can only be the courts who can authorize the making of the deportation order as a result of the [Atain] Takitota case.
“It was a very clear ruling. It was never appealed on that point. It may well become an issue that could perhaps be taken up in a similar case. But until that case is overruled, that case states that the minister cannot make a deportation order without the court having found that a person had committed an immigration offense.
“Therefore, essentially, the court has to make that finding before a deportation order [is issued].”