Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday that it is “unfortunate” that international organizations like the United Nations (UN) would apply standards to small countries like The Bahamas “that they do not enforce in their own countries”.
His comments were in response to comments made by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) last week regarding the treatment of Haitians in The Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.
On October 11, the UN body called on The Bahamas to stop deporting Haitians and other undocumented migrants “without the individual assessments and due process guarantees to which they are entitled under international law”.
However, Bethel shot that down.
“It is unfortunate sometimes that international organizations – with all respect – apply standards to little countries like The Bahamas that they do not enforce in their own countries,” he told The Nassau Guardian.
Bethel added, “How would they know that this is not happening? Our immigration officers do not deport persons willy-nilly. In fact, the immigration department does not have the power to deport.
“It is the court that deports.”
The attorney general said the UN should not “prejudge an issue based on something that they would’ve heard…from some social activist group”.
“They need to check the facts out before they say that we are deporting persons without giving them the ability to raise issues,” Bethel said.
“That is not the case.”
Bethel said it is “quite surprising” that an organization like the UN would “make a statement that is not based on fact”.
In recent weeks, the government has faced backlash after announcing its intention to enforce immigration laws and deport undocumented migrants, even those impacted by Hurricane Dorian.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the government announced that the repatriation of storm victims, who are undocumented migrants, was on hold.
The UN body expressed concern with the impact of the government’s public reversal of its “immigration enforcement activities”.
Yesterday, Bethel said, “…There is nothing in law or in good conscience that can prevent the government of The Bahamas from enforcing its laws outside of the relief centers, hurricane relief centers.”
He said that the government has the right to protect its borders.
“This is not something that is dependent on mother nature and the vicissitudes of a hurricane,” Bethel said.
“Any persons formally living in any parts of Abaco, who are undocumented and have no lawful right to be in The Bahamas or to remain in The Bahamas, they certainly would have better opportunities to take care of themselves – in the current circumstances – in Haiti than The Bahamas.
“Nobody has the right to come into somebody’s country unlawfully, remain there, and to remain there merely because some tragedy happened in the country. It is not, it doesn’t make sense.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has maintained an unwavering stance on immigration in the weeks following Dorian – the worst storm in Bahamian history.
Speaking in Parliament, Minnis sent a notice to “all those who are illegal that they can leave voluntarily or they will be forced to leave”.
The prime minister also warned companies that hire undocumented workers that they will be “disciplined severely”.
But he said the government’s immigration policy will be carried out humanely.