By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Department of Immigration is facing major challenges, not only with manpower and equipment, but also in terms of the money it needs to operate efficiently, Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell said.
Already, the department is close to depleting the $900,000 budgeted for repatriations and the more than $200,000 to run the Detention Centre.
Due to budgetary scale backs, the Department was forced to operate with 10 per cent less than it had initially requested from the government, Mr Mitchell said.
While the Department is tasked with the responsibility of arresting, detaining and expelling foreigners illegally in the country, among other things, Mr Mitchell said there are only 231 persons on staff to enforce the law across 26 inhabited islands.
He said: “In this fiscal year, we budgeted $1 million for repatriation. This has been reduced by 10 per cent due to the budget exigencies and the amount is now $900,000. So far this fiscal year, we have used $736,420.98 of the allocation, with a balance left for the annual allocation of $143, 479.02.
“This figure should be reduced further by two charter payments of $27,000 each to Bahamasair and additional charters to bring migrants from Cat Island and Crooked Island at a cost of $20,000.
“The Detention Centre has an approved budget of $260,000, there is a budget reduction of 10 per cent. We have spent so far this year at the Detention Centre $204,892.30. The balance left to be spent for the rest of this fiscal year $29,107.70.”
On a monthly basis officials spend $3,000 on maintenance of the centre and cleaning costs $4,300. Food for detainees costs $5,000, for a total estimated monthly expenditure of $12,300.
And now, only three months into the new year, Mr Mitchell added that the number of projected repatriations could surpass last year’s numbers. In 2012, there were 3,134 persons repatriated. Of that number 2,496 were Haitian and 638 were of other nationalities.
January and February of this year saw around 600 illegal immigrants sent home.
“Clearly, the incursion into our country of undocumented migrants from Haiti is our challenging immigration issue. It is also a national security problem, a social problem and an economic issue.
“The fact is the migrants are drawn to this country because their labour is in demand in this country. They are willing to do jobs which Bahamians are said not to want at the prices which are now on offer in the labour market,” he said.