Prime Minister Philip Davis said yesterday that despite the assertion of the official opposition, The Bahamas is not experiencing an immigration crisis.
“We do have a challenge with immigration,” Davis told reporters in the foyer of the House of Assembly.
“Would I call it a crisis or not? I don’t think we’re there yet, but there are challenges in that area.”
Government officials have lamented the spike in illegal migration this year which led the opposition to declare that The Bahamas is experiencing an immigration crisis.
More than 2,800 migrants — mostly Haitian — have been apprehended in Bahamian waters since January. These apprehensions exceed what was reported in the last three years combined.
Shantytowns have also grown exponentially, according to authorities.
Earlier this month, Director of Immigration Keturah Ferguson indicated that The Farm shantytown in northern Abaco grew from 50 acres to “as much as” 200 acres since Hurricane Dorian three years ago.
Davis said yesterday that the government is concerned about shantytowns and the conditions “under which humanity exists” in those communities.
“As I would have mentioned earlier today in my communication, the dysfunction and challenges in other countries is causing a lot of irregular immigration,” he said.
“The world is contending with it. We have to contend with it and, yes, we have to find the balance of how we deal with it without impacting the lives our own citizens.”
When asked if the government is considering demolishing structures in shantytowns that are not covered by a Supreme Court injunction, the prime minister replied, “We are going to look at how best to deal with these things in a humane way and if that’s one of the routes, that’s an option that’s out there.”
Shantytown residents are challenging the government’s 2018 policy, which sought to get rid of shantytowns in The Bahamas.
Implementation of the policy was halted after an injunction — banning demolition on New Providence and parts of Abaco — was granted by Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson in 2018.
More than a year ago, Grant-Thompson adjourned a judicial review into whether the government’s demolition of such communities is unconstitutional.
On Sunday, Attorney General Ryan Pinder told The Nassau Guardian that he expects a ruling at the beginning of November.
He said the government will appeal to lift the injunction.
Pinder said it is also preparing contempt proceedings for expanded shantytowns on Abaco which go against the injunction.