Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday that he will not tolerate illegal migration and warned that Bahamians who hire illegal immigrants will be prosecuted.
He made the comments as he reflected on discussions at the 31st Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Minnis said the government will soon sign a memorandum of understanding with the Turks and Caicos government, which will allow them to work together in securing borders to prevent illegal migration from Haiti.
“We brought forth to our CARICOM colleagues the challenges that we face with illegals that challenges both ourselves and Turks and Caicos,” Minnis said at a press conference.
“And in fact, the Turks prime minister pointed out that things are getting so bad and restless in Turks islands that the residents are now taking it upon themselves to capture illegal residents, apprehend them themselves and retain them for the police and other officers.
“The Bahamas is in discussion with the Turks and Caicos and we expect to sign a memorandum of understanding very soon so that we can protect each other’s borders because we face the same challenges.
“But moving forward, it is essential…that we take charge and grab hold of the challenges we face with respect to illegals. This is no longer talk. Those Bahamians who engage and hire illegals, the police, immigration and the relevant ministries have been given the mandate that they are to prosecute such individuals because The Bahamas is for Bahamians first and foremost and will remain. It is our duty and our responsibility to ensure that Bahamians are first. We welcome individuals to our shores and they are entitled to everything once entering the proper way through either airports or seaports.
“…But we will not tolerate illegals.”
Minnis said he also explained that signing onto the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) would put the country at greater risk for migration from Haiti.
The free movement of people is a part of the CSME initiative, which aims to create a single economic space to produce goods and services that can compete in the global market.
The Bahamas is the only full member of CARICOM that has not signed on to the CSME.
“We’ve made it clear that we have a problem with illegal migration to The Bahamas and we will no longer tolerate it,and we cannot afford it,” Minnis said.
“We are a population of 400,000. Haiti has a population of 12 million.
“CARICOM also would have discussed free movement of people. The Bahamas’ position was firm. The Bahamas will not sign any agreement with free movement of people. If we were to do that, you can imagine 12 million to 400,000. You’d lose your job.”
Minnis also addressed concerns over the situation in Haiti.
At CARICOM’s last summit in Saint Lucia,it was agreed that a prime ministerial delegation, which included The Bahamas, would visit Haiti, but that never happened due to unrest in the country.
Earlier this week, it was decided that CARICOM will send a fact-finding team to Haiti in light of the ongoing political and social unrest.
The team will include representatives from The Bahamas, Jamaica and Barbados and will be led by CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.
“A delegation was selected at the last CARICOM meeting,” Minnis said.
“…We were on standby, and because The Bahamas is the only CARICOM country to have a facility, the embassy there in Haiti, we were going to utilize resources to act as a CARICOM central command center.
“Unfortunately, we were not able to travel because of safety issues and communication with the Haitian government.
“And therefore, the chairman of CARICOM, the Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley, was able to communicate with the Haitian President Moise and therefore we’re hoping that that delegation can move forward.”