By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOREIGN Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell has urged third countries not to promote a message around the world that they will take migrants who make their way illegally to the Bahamas.
Speaking at the 2013 High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development in New York City, Mr Mitchell explained that migration continues to be a challenge for the Bahamas.
Given the current situation with Cuban detainees, their treatment while detained and how long they are detained in the Bahamas, the Minister said the government has made a decision to change its policies in that regard.
Mr Mitchell said: “By far the greater political concern in The Bahamas is the illegal migration. In the last few months, the policies which drive the Cubans to leave their country and go to the United Sates have put us in quite a stew. There was a double standard of the treatment of Cuban refugees and Haitian refugees by the officials in The Bahamas. We have now stopped this practice.
“The political realities at home being what they are, we are not to be caught again in a situation where people simply are too long in a lock up before being sent back home. Or on to their ultimate destination with all the attendant problems that come with that.
“We also want to discourage third countries from promoting around the world that they will take migrants who make their way illegally to The Bahamas and assist them to get those third countries. This will simply lead to the floodgates being opened and this will result in a migration effect with which we could not cope. We have asked these third countries to desist from making statements in public about these matters which are unhelpful.”
Mr Mitchell suggested that the International Organisation for Migration of the Organisation of American States meet with those countries that surround the Bahamas to better coordinate policies associated with migration.
“Putting migration on the agenda for post 2015 will in fact help to influence the public policy on this issue for all countries. It will also bring to the fore the necessity for domestic policies not only to be driven by their own internal political realities but also by the impacts which those policies will have on neighbouring and friendly states.”
He added that it was important for such states who promote free trade to act in keeping their borders open tfo permit the lawful movement of people to seek a better life or work in another country.