Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday announced that a strike force will be established to aggressively pursue illegal migrants in The Bahamas as he declared it is time to “take our country back”.
“We must strengthen and enforce our immigration policies,” said Minnis, as he closed debate on the mid-year budget in Parliament.
“We must pursue illegal immigrants aggressively. This is The Bahamas and Bahamians are first, and Bahamians will and must remain first.
“I have given the minister with responsibility for immigration the task of establishing a strike force whose mandate would be to aggressively pursue illegals, both throughout New Providence and the Family Islands, through our streets and at various job sites.”
Minnis added, “Mr. Speaker, we can no longer be second class citizens in our own country. We must take our country back.
“Work permits cannot and should not and will not be obtained within our country unless they are being renewed.
“Our social services can take no more. Our health system can take no more. Mr. Speaker, I remember while working as a physician in the Princess Margaret Hospital in charge of senior personnel of obstetrics and gynaecology, it was not unusual, which was very frustrating to the staff and demoralizing, it was not unusual with 10 deliveries within our wards, nine were to illegals and one was a Bahamian.
“It was not unusual, Mr. Speaker, that our wards, our beds were filled with illegals while Bahamians stood aside and sat on the benches waiting for a bed. Who is this country for, Mr. Speaker?”
Illegal migration, particularly from neighboring Haiti, has been a longstanding challenge for The Bahamas.
Using the Turks and Caicos Islands as an example of what could happen if the issue is not taken seriously, Minnis called on Bahamians to play their part in the effort to curb illegal migration.
“The Bahamian citizens are likewise responsible,” he said.
“We have a responsibility to inform the government as to such activities. And we have the responsibility of not hiring individuals unless there is documentation of them being here or allowed to be here.
“We do not want to reach the situation that we now see in the Turks Islands.
“[M]r. Speaker, Turks is being inundated or swamped with illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants now outnumber the residents in Turks. And yes, CARICOM has established a committee, of which I am a part, to travel to Haiti to assist in resolving this problem.
“But the residents in Turks are so fed up that they themselves are capturing the illegals, tying them up and taking them to the authorities and requesting that they be deported.
“Mr. Speaker, I would not like to see us reach that point. And therefore, I urge Bahamians that you have a responsibility. You must not hire illegals. And you must report such illegal activities.”
Minnis also emphasized that Bahamians who hire migrants who are in the country legally must ensure that they have proper accommodations.
“We will not continue to allow shantytowns for individuals to continue to break that law in our country, yet we do nothing,” he said.
“And if a Bahamian adds anything onto his or her home without the relevant permit, we break it down.”
Early in its term, the Minnis administration announced plans to demolish shantytowns in The Bahamas.
In August 2018, Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson handed down an injunction blocking the demolition of shantytown structures.
The government is seeking to have the injunction lifted.
Minnis yesterday urged the courts to work with the government in the eradication of shantytowns.
“Are we second class citizens in our own country?” he asked.
“Mr. Speaker, if we were, we will no longer be second class citizens in our country.
“And I ask the courts to work with us. Let’s solve our problems, because today it’s me, and tomorrow it’s you. Soon, they will build a court next to the Supreme Court, and what do we do? Leave it alone?”
Minnis also expressed concern over the number of foreigners working in The Bahamas, both legally and illegally.
“Bahamians who employ illegals will and must be prosecuted,” he said.
“We cannot continue along a lawless society if we are to protect our citizens.
“Jobs are first and foremost for Bahamians.
“Mr. Speaker, I find it very difficult, and I still cannot understand [when] investors, bankers, etc. bring individuals on our shores for a contract for three or four years with the commitment that they would train Bahamians to take over such jobs. And then six years, they are still here. Eight years they are still here. Nine years they are applying for residency, displacing Bahamians.”
Minnis said he will ensure an end to the trend.
“I find it difficult that my nationals cannot obtain the knowledge to take over the job,” he said.
“And since I know that my nationals can and do have the knowledge to take over the jobs, the fault must be with the trainer.
“And we are to aggressively ensure that succession planning is first and foremost, and in the [case] of individuals not properly being trained, that trainer has failed and must be replaced by a new trainer, so that they do not establish foundations within our country and take further jobs away from our citizens.
“Mr. Speaker, I also find it very difficult to accept individuals who come to our shores as employees on jobs, subcontractors or employers. When I look five years later, these individuals established their construction company and compete against Bahamians for our jobs.
“I am embarrassed, sometimes, when I walk about and see the amount of individuals who speak a different language than I do, but, yet, have big contracts within our country. That must stop. Bahamians first.”