Let sanity prevail
As a crowd gathered outside Parliament yesterday with some protestors yelling insane nonsense, Minister of Immigration Keith Bell provided an update on the troubling increase in illegal migration from Haiti and Cuba.
Haiti is in crisis, as we have outlined repeatedly in this space.
There is no upside to what is happening there and there is no shortage of Haitians wanting to leave.
The Bahamas is a victim of geography in this regard and though we cannot countenance illegal entry into our country, we have no choice to accept that it will continue.
Unfortunately, there are some Bahamians who are so mal-intended and desperate for political relevance that they will scapegoat Haitians and spread lies to publicly vilify them, bringing shame on us all.
In the House yesterday, Bell spoke to the “dangers of misinformation and untruths being spread via social media and other outlets”.
“I have outlined how the protests, based on an imaginary immigration bill, was untrue, of how the protest based on the imaginary shantytown on Paradise Island was untrue, and now, today, here we are,” he said.
“Madam Speaker, there are no hidden deals. There are no surprises. There is no conspiracy … no member from this side, and I am not aware of any members opposite, proposing and seeking to promote any policy which would erode the sovereignty or integrity of this country.
“This nonsense being spread by persons who do not appear to be familiar with that truth is just that, nonsense.”
Bell outlined that hundreds of immigrants have been repatriated just this week and the painstaking lengths the government went to, to do that in a humane, respectful and legal manner.
Though Bell has been reluctant to describe the massive increase in illegal migration as a crisis, he has in recent times consistently addressed this issue as the situation has deteriorated in Haiti over the past 18 months.
He has also recently announced measures the government believes necessary to protect The Bahamas.
On Friday, he announced that no new work permit applications for Haitian citizens will be processed until such time as revised protocols are introduced to verify and authenticate documents issued by the Haitian government and the Haitian National Police.
Bell said new and existing permit to reside applications for Haitian citizens will only be considered on a case-by-case basis and approvals will only be granted in the most exceptional circumstances.
The Department of Immigration has also committed to ramping up its special operations in the coming weeks to ensure people in shantytowns have legal status.
Bell also announced last month that the Department of Immigration will crack down on work permit violators.
Referring to demonstrations outside Parliament, Bell noted that peaceful assembly is a constitutional right.
“Certainly, protests are often necessary,” he said.
“To the protestors and their calls for action, ours is an open government.
“I would ask that everyone, to ensure that while we face these challenges, let sanity prevail.
“We are a country of laws and the maintenance of law and order must remain a cornerstone of our country. Xenophobia has no place in The Bahamas nor does the arbitrary harassment of any person on the basis of any perception as to their nationality. To those doing it, stop.”
Some who are organizing and attending those protests are no patriots, though there are others who, no doubt, have a genuine concern over the crisis, and genuinely want to see their government take stronger positions to address it.
Some protestors have been whipped into a frenzy by charlatans who drape themselves in nationalism while playing on old tropes and using social media to spread sickening lies to instill fear and paranoia in Bahamians.
As much as they desire political power, those are not fit and proper people to sit in our House of Assembly with the views they hold.
Their positions are antithetical to our democracy and decent society.
We hope that Bell continues to speak reason to the Bahamian people, and we hope that Bahamians, while exercising their right to demand action from their government, allow sanity to prevail, even in a crisis which understandably creates deep worries and fears among our people.