Amid increased sightings of suspected migrants on Andros, Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson said yesterday that it may be necessary for the authorities to “pitch [their] own tents” in the shantytowns on that island as he pointed to a “much larger” problem than illegal migration.
“Our intelligence has revealed that there are some persons in Andros who may not have come to The Bahamas by way of the right procedure,” he told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.
“We are conducting ongoing investigations into it. Intelligence reveals that some of them are being assisted by Bahamians.”
A task force made up of officers from the Department of Immigration, Royal Bahamas Police Force and Royal Bahamas Defence Force, recently conducted a major operation on the island. But Johnson said it may be necessary to take it a step further as he suggested that migrants are being exploited.
“I think it may become necessary to send officers into the community sometimes to actually live in the community,” he said.
“We know that the Department of Agriculture has posted eviction notices. We saw those. Persons went into the bushes. But it may be necessary for us to pitch our tents in some of these areas to deal with it because it is much larger than just persons coming.
“We find that because people are vulnerable, sometimes things happen to them that should not happen to them. We are doing our best.”
However, he added that the matter does call for some sensitivity.
“But to the extent that the majority of them are economic migrants, we fully appreciate that we must go into protection mode because there are women and children,” he added.
“But there is still the requirement that persons are to migrate to The Bahamas in the proper way. But what really concerns us is that immigration is more than just concentrated on economic migrants. We still have terrorists, money launderers and any number of persons that we are guarding the borders against. And, to the extent that someone could so easily enter The Bahamas, is a serious concern for us. And so, we are dealing with the matter.”
Back in September, the Descendants of North Andros group wrote the government expressing concern about the alleged relocation of Haitians from Abaco to Andros in the wake of Hurricane Dorian – the strongest storm to ever hit the northern Bahamas.
At the time, North Andros MP Carlton Bowleg denied that there had been a significant increase in shantytown population.
However, he said the shantytowns would be dealt with shortly.
Asked for an update yesterday, Bowleg said the Department of Immigration is looking into the issue.