One day after Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson announced that identity theft is on the rise, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis said the issue must be handled delicately and on a case-by-case basis, as some may not have known they were using false identities.
Johnson said the Department of Immigration has been finding migrants using dead people’s birth certificates to apply for Bahamian citizenship.
“That issue has a lot of problematic concerns, which may require more compassion than the ordinary identification theft,” he said.
“Very often it is not the person who is using the birth certificate that stole anything, but rather it may have been thrust upon that person. I know of two or three cases in the past where babies were brought into The Bahamas and they grew up knowing themselves as ‘Baby A’.
“And only when they became of age and they thought that their name was ‘John Doe’ and…that person even got a passport. They were registered as a Bahamian in that name. And they only knew themselves as that until a family member or someone who knew the story disclosed it.
“And then they found themselves saying, ‘Well, what am I to do? This is all I knew. From what I know, I was born in The Bahamas. I went to school. That’s all I know. I never knew that I was born elsewhere.’
“So, that’s a complicated issue. So, I don’t call that identity theft. I call that, basically, an assumption of a name that was provided by somebody else – a parent or a relative or otherwise.”
Johnson said those sworn in as citizens who are later found to have stolen identities will have their citizenship revoked.
While Davis agreed that it should be revoked, he said what happens to the individuals afterward should depend on the circumstances.
“If it is discovered that citizenship was granted to a person and there was some discrepancy in the process, for example, that the person used a birth certificate that did not belong to them, well then, yes, you would revoke that citizenship,” he said.
“Now what happens to the person afterward, you have to look at the circumstances.”
Davis added, “I think each case has to be dealt with on its own merit.
“I don’t think there is just one suit that would fit all because there will be instances where the person was aware and they are complicit in what is going on. And there are cases where persons are not complicit, don’t know, are not aware.
“And the question is, when they do become aware, what do you do at that time? Each, I think, would have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”
In recent months, there have been a number of people arraigned for fraud. In several cases, discrepancies were discovered when the people attempted to apply for Bahamian citizenship.