Former Minister of National Security A. Loftus Roker, who is still widely known for the tough stance he took against illegal immigration when he was minister responsible for immigration, said yesterday he remains concerned that Bahamians are losing out in their country, and lamented what he said is a lack of political leadership.
“When you have no more country, you see where you can go and claim anything,” said Roker, who was asked his views on the controversy surrounding the release of a large group of Chinese nationals found at the British Colonial Hotel without any legal status in The Bahamas earlier this year.
Minister of Immigration Keith Bell has said it was “unnecessary” to transport them to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre, where individuals found to be in The Bahamas illegally are held. According to Bell, the “irregularities” found at the work site “were expeditiously cured by the employer”.
Roker warned, “All I say is one day Bahamians will find we don’t have our own country. That’s what I’m worried about.
“The country lacks leadership. Imagine you had dozens of Chinese without work permits here. How the hell did they get here? … How did we allow them to land? We trying to fool ourselves. We don’t have any leadership. If you had leadership, you’d know what’s going on. But what we are doing is keep postponing our problems. That’s what we’re doing.”
Details surrounding how the Chinese nationals got in The Bahamas and whether they still are currently in country are unknown as Bell nor any other authority has yet to thoroughly explain the matter.
Meanwhile, it is understood that in Progressive Liberal Party circles there is widespread concern over the political impact the controversy ensnaring the immigration minister could have.
Roker wished not to comment directly on a statement made by Director of Immigration Keturah Ferguson in a correspondence to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Immigration Cecilia Strachan that “it also appears that the expatriate has more rights in The Bahamas than Bahamians”, but he said, “One thing for sure, we don’t believe in Bahamians. Anybody else better than us. All I’m saying is we lack leadership.”
Ferguson’s correspondence was sent a day after the Chinese were ordered released not long after the immigration exercise was conducted.
As reported in the media on Monday, Ferguson said in her correspondence that immigration officials received a directive from Bell to have the immigration officers stand down on the operation and that any breach will be remedied the following day.
Even as the firestorm over the immigration matter – including Bell’s swearing in of a family as citizens of The Bahamas during a funeral service last month – builds, Prime Minister Philip Davis has remained silent, with his office saying only that the facts are being gathered in respect of the various immigration issues at hand.
Meanwhile, a purported report to an immigration superior from the immigration officer who oversaw the January 17 exercise at the British Colonial was circulated on social media yesterday.
According to the document, only three of the 65 Chinese nationals found at the hotel were able to produce passports or identification for immigration officials, while all others claimed they had no passports in their possession and were unable to contact the people who may have them.
“On arrival at the hotel, we observed lighting and clothing hung in the windows of some of the rooms. Shortly thereafter, we noticed an Asian male in the window of one of the rooms,” the document states.
“Based on this, we approached the security officer and advised him of our suspicions. The officer attempted to obstruct us from entering the building and checking the status of the individual, therefore, I advised him under extreme caution that I was prepared to arrest him for obstruction and continued the execution of my duties.
“The officer then removed himself from the entrance and I instructed the officers to search the first floor of the building.”
The officer wrote, “In the initial search, the officers reported a total of 10 persons, but, after a more intense search, we were able to gather approximately 65 Chinese nationals.
“All subjects were asked to produce their passports and any other evidence of legal status. Out of the 65 subjects, only three were able to produce passports or identification.
“All of the others claimed they had no passports in their possession and [were] unable to contact the persons who may have them.”
While he did not delve into the details emerging in relation to the various immigration controversies, Roker said yesterday there’s a need for The Bahamas to get serious about its illegal immigration crisis.