Former Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchell yesterday urged the enforcement of immigration laws, saying there should be no special circumstance under which the laws are not obeyed.
“The immigration laws of The Bahamas must be obeyed by all and strictly enforced by the government,” said Mitchell, speaking on behalf of the Progressive Liberal Party.
“There is no reason or set of extenuating circumstances that we see to justify any deviation from standard operating procedures to deal with any illegal immigrant.
“Further, there is no reason in immigration enforcement to discriminate against or distinguish between nationalities. The enforcement regime must be applied evenly and fairly across the board.
“The only qualifying question is whether or not a migrant has the legal right to reside and/or work in The Bahamas. If he or she does not, then under Bahamian law they are required to return home or be repatriated by the state.”
The immigration issue has come back into the spotlight in the weeks following Hurricane Dorian, which decimated parts of Grand Bahama and Abaco, where several shantytowns were destroyed.
On Sunday, Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson told The Nassau Guardian that the government intends to enforce the immigration laws. He said if there are undocumented migrants in shelters, they, too, would be repatriated.
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, the government had announced that repatriation of storm victims who are illegal immigrants was on hold.
In a statement released yesterday, the Department of Immigration announced, “The public is advised that The Bahamas is a country of laws and governed by the rule of law. Therefore, the government is obliged to follow the law as outlined in The Bahamas Immigration Act.
“The public is further advised that non-nationals seeking employment in The Bahamas must be approved by the immigration department and that applications for the issuance of the first work permit will not be accepted or considered unless the individual is physically present, and a resident in his or her country of origin at the time that the first application is made.
“It is a criminal offense to harbor a person in contravention to the Immigration Act, which may result in a fine not exceeding $10,000 or a prison sentence of up to five years or both.
“Further, the public is hereby reminded that work permits are non-transferable from employer to employer. Any transfer from one employer to another under a current permit may only be legally affected 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.
“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.”