Weeks after the announcement of the suspension of repatriations after Hurricane Dorian, the Department of Immigration warned yesterday the government will enforce all immigration laws.
“The public is advised that The Bahamas is a country of laws and government by the rule of law,” the department said in a statement.
“Therefore, the government is obliged to follow the law as outlined in The Bahamas Immigration Act.”
The statement added, “Any person found in The Bahamas in contravention of the immigration laws will be subject to arrest, criminal proceedings and, where applicable, detention and deportation.”
It said foreigners who seek employment in The Bahamas must be approved by the Department of Immigration.
The department noted that those individuals will not be issued a work permit unless they reside in their country of origin during the time of application.
“Further, the public is hereby reminded that work permits are non-transferable from employer to employer,” the statement said.
“Any transfer from one employer to another under a current permit may only be legally effected by a new application submitted by that new employer.
“The applicant for a new work permit, or the renewal of an existing work permit, by a prospective employer of a non-Bahamian worker will be required to satisfy immigration officials that satisfactory living accommodations have been arranged by that employer on behalf of the prospective worker, and that the said worker will not become a charge on the state or be permitted to live in sub-standard housing.”
The statement said any individual found harboring a person who is in breach of the Immigration Act will face up to five years in prison and a possible fine of up to $10,000.
On Sunday, Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson declared that the undocumented migrants living in hurricane shelters will still face repatriation.
“…If you’re in a shelter and you’re undocumented and you’re not here in the right way, you’re still subject to deportation and the enforcement of the immigration laws,” Johnson told The Nassau Guardian.
He said that hurricane shelters would not be used “as a mechanism to circumvent the law”.
Johnson said he has instructed the director and immigration officers “to protect the borders of The Bahamas and to enforce the immigration laws without fear, favor or ill will”.
Among the areas most impacted by Dorian – the strongest storm to ever hit The Bahamas – were shantytowns on Abaco, home to a significant migrant population.
Thousands of people were evacuated from Abaco and Grand Bahama after the storm. Many of them are now in New Providence in shelters.