Govt committed to making citizenship, residency application process more efficient, PM says

Top immigration officials have been advised to work more diligently and at a faster pace to ensure that those eligible for citizenship and residency are granted their status more efficiently, said Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis.

The prime minister said the government is committed to ensuring that those making application in accordance with the country’s laws will be fairly treated.

“We are committed to ensuring that those who are eligible for citizenship and residency, and who apply, are granted their status in a timely manner,” said Minnis on Wednesday at the Church of God of Prophecy’s National Conclave 2020 held at the East Street cathedral under the theme “Rejoice! It’s Time to Praise the Lord”.

The national immigration policy must be guided by adherence to the rule of law and the demands of justice, said the prime minister.

Minnis said this is why his administration has taken a firm stance on illegal migration and shantytowns.

“We cannot allow unfettered illegal migration to The Bahamas,” Minnis said. “But the rule of law and the demands of justice also mean that we should provide a legal path to citizenship and residency for those who are eligible.”

The prime minister noted that in the Free National Movement’s manifesto, the party committed to “remove elements which exploit deficiencies in processes [and] improve fairness for applicants”.

In keeping with this commitment, the Immigration Commission, which is chaired by retired justice Malcolm Adderley, was established on January 1, 2018.

“That seven-member commission has been working assiduously to clear the backlog in applications,” Minnis said.

“They have made considerable progress.”

Minnis also told the congregation that the newly appointed National Coordination Committee on COVID-19 met to discuss a range of issues on Wednesday, hours before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

The prime minister said the global outbreak of COVID-19 is a health crisis that will also have many economic and financial implications, particularly in our leading industry, tourism.

“We will continue to update the Bahamian people on all we are doing to address this major crisis,” he said.

“I would like to urge the public to rely on certified, credible sources of information to stay up to date and properly informed about COVID-19 in The Bahamas. Misinformation, which can spread rapidly, causes distress and panic. Fake news and misinformation have the potential to undermine public confidence and response.”

Minnis urged Bahamians to take the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19, including regularly washing hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, and covering the mouth and the nose when coughing and sneezing with your elbow.

Close contact should be avoided with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing.

If anyone is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath), you are encouraged not to present yourself directly to the doctor or emergency room, but to call the Ministry of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 376-9350 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or 376-9387 from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

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