The government has indefinitely suspended the deportation of immigrants from areas impacted by Hurricane Dorian, but there is no plan to grant asylum, Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson said yesterday.
“Having regard that we’re now facing a humanitarian crisis, the government is taking the decision that those immigration policies or enforcement measures suspended forthwith in the affected areas – that’s the Abacos and Freeport, Grand Bahama,” Johnson told reporters outside Cabinet.
“Why I say we were extremely careful because the notice sent out does not include islands like Inagua, Cat Island and San Salvador, Long Island, whatever have you. We still have the constitutional right to safeguard our borders.”
He said immigration officers on other Family Islands still have “strict instructions” to carry out their duties in terms of apprehensions, detentions and reparations.
Johnson said individuals affected by Dorian “have nothing to worry about”.
“The government is encouraging, as you’ve seen, all and sundry, regardless of origin, immigration status, to take advantage of social services, the shelters, the healthcare as we’ve always been doing in The Bahamas,” he said.
“Anybody in The Bahamas can get education. Anybody can get healthcare, but even more so in these circumstances. You’ve seen an excellent example by the international community, our brothers and sisters who’ve come in.”
Johnson said the prime minister has not instructed him to grant asylum to any migrants from impacted areas.
“We know that there are a number of persons who ought not be here,” he said.
“For those unaffected areas, know that we will be out there. I have said to the immigration director, and I have a serious concern that when sometimes we do these enforcement measures that nobody is being arrested for harboring.
“So, I want to say to the Bahamian public, I don’t want anybody to be calling me. If you’re found harboring anybody, that will assist us greatly, the $6,000 you’ll have to pay.”