Former Court of Appeal President Dame Joan Sawyer said yesterday that Haitian Chargé d’Affaires Dorval Darlier was “completely out of line” when he criticized the court’s decision to imprison Haitians convicted of minor immigration offenses.
“I think he was completely out of line to try and suggest to The Bahamas’ court what they should and should not do,” Dame Joan said.
“We don’t accept that from the attorney general or anybody else.”
She added, “There is a little thing called tactfulness. You don’t, in another person’s country, try and tell their judiciary how to behave.”
On Sunday, Darlier said it is harsh to send Haitians to prison for petty offenses.
He said he expressed this concern to Attorney General Carl Bethel during a meeting last week.
“I know that The Bahamas is a country of law, but sometimes you have to see it like the humanitarian way because [t]here isn’t a major crime,” he said.
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.”
Yesterday, Dame Joan noted that before the establishment of the Carmichael Road Detention Center, foreigners who were found to have violated the Immigration Act were sent to prison without a trial.
“I cannot go to the United States and over and over break their laws and think they’re going to let you walk lightly, right?” she asked.
“Why is it that people expect The Bahamas to do what bigger countries with more resources do not do and will not do, and expect us to do it with our limited resources?
“…We turn our blind eye to people running the red light, but that is what leads to lawlessness. If you don’t learn to obey the little law, you will find it easier to break the bigger ones.”
Dame Joan said that “a breach of the law is a breach of the law”.
“What the chargé d’affaires is saying that it’s only a little thing, there is no such thing as a little breach of the law,” she said.
Dame Joan added, “[I]f he is so concerned about the welfare of these people, why doesn’t he take them into the embassy and house them there?”
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 were convicted of 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, noting that undocumented migrants will “go to jail for a longer time” if they keep coming to her court.
On Sunday, when asked to respond to Darlier’s statement, the attorney general said, “I wouldn’t dream of giving directions to the court of law.”