Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson said yesterday that the government takes claims of abuse against migrants or anyone seriously but warned people to be wary of sharing information that is “dead wrong”.
A United Nations (UN) official visited The Bahamas earlier this month to, among other things, verify “worrying” claims of “violence and abuse” used by Bahamian law enforcement officers.
The Nassau Guardian asked Johnson about the claims, which mentioned defense force and immigration officers, outside Cabinet.
“If anybody, anywhere within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas or outside of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, determines that something is happening in this democratic and sovereign state that is not keeping with the rule of law or international best practices, we would like to hear them,” Johnson said.
“But at the same time, we are hoping that both local organizations, including the media, wouldn’t publicize those things that are dead wrong and that are just dishonest and not right, and that they would join in in the public education.”
Johnson said any legitimate complaints made concerning the behavior of government officials towards migrants are thoroughly investigated.
“We have been doing that,” Johnson said.
“I have just given you any number of frivolous complaints that have been made.”
He continued, “There is a way that we do things in The Bahamas.
“And because the IOM (International Organization for Migration) or someone else suggests something, it doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it right.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, the government has come under fire from several international organizations over its stance regarding undocumented migrants who were impacted by the storm.
George Abu Al Zulof, a senior UN human rights advisor based in Jamaica, visited the country after being invited by the Bahamian government “to discuss human rights matters related to deportations, repatriations, and other related issues”.
UN Resident Co-ordinator Mariko Kagoshima was set to meet with Bahamian authorities on Monday to discuss the situation and possible next steps.
However, Johnson said the meeting did not happen.
“No, I didn’t,” he said when asked if he met with Kagoshima.
“I did not. We had an appointment set. Unfortunately, the time that was set, I was there and the person did not turn up.”
Johnson assured that The Bahamas follows international best practice and protects the human rights of all people in the country.
He said the government is interested in facts not just “conjecture or assertions”.
“And if there are those facts, we have a police force who have proven themselves,” he said.
“We have a court, the Supreme Court and the Magistrates Court that has proven themselves.
“We have a director, extremely competent, who has proven himself. And we are prepared to accept any complaints. But what we say is that there are a number of frivolous, false and unfounded complaints that have been made.”