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Civil Liberty Concerns Over National Id Proposals

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Minister of Foreign affairs Fred Mitchell.

By DANA SMITH

Tribune Staff Reporter

dsmith@tribunemedia.net

THOSE who call for the introduction of a national identity card “must also understand there are civil liberty implications” that can arise as a result, Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell said yesterday.

Such implications, he explained, could include being stopped on the street at any time and asked by authorities to show a national ID card as proof of legal residency.

It was last Thursday that National Security Minister Bernard Nottage said “the time has come” for the country to consider the introduction of such a card, considering the Bahamas’ long-standing illegal migration problem.

The implementation of a national identity card was one of 52 suggestions at last month’s Crime Listening Forum. The official government response labelled this idea: “An excellent suggestion that is currently being reviewed for possible implementation.”

Said Dr Nottage: “We think the time has come for us to consider the introduction of an identity card where we can – if people are required to carry it, we will know who is a citizen and who is not a citizen, and who is here illegally and who is not here illegally.

“This would cause them and us to be more aware of the size of the problem that we have and hopefully to be able to bring some positive action to dealing with this whole problem of people who are in our country, illegally – this question of trafficking in persons, human smuggling, and, of course, enable us to be able to deal with them.”

Speaking yesterday, Mr Mitchell noted that the introduction of some form of national identification documents was one item he had previously discussed in his mid-year budget statement given the “anxieties” of the Bahamian public regarding migration enforcement.

“It meant that you would have to have some kind of national identity document. I said that,” Mr Mitchell said. “People were running off the deep-end about maids and labourers and so on and so forth, but not about the details of all the specific things that were said in that statement.

“What I said is, when people call for this, they must also understand there are civil liberty implications to these things. Because what it means, essentially, if you want more enforcement, people have to get used to the idea of being stopped on the streets and being asking: ‘Do you have an identity card?’ Or something which identifies you with being in the Bahamas.”

If the problem is undocumented migrants in the country and wanting to be sure everyone has some documents which identifies their legal right to be in the Bahamas, then “one idea” would be a national identification document, Mr Mitchell said.

“Now obviously there has to be a lot of discussion about that because that takes things to a whole ‘nother level in the country,” he continued. “But you know, I always say, be careful what you ask for. Immigration is a blunt instrument, there’s no subtly to it, it’s a law enforcement procedure. We need to bring it under control and so various measures are going to be advanced to try and bring that agenda forward.”

When asked if he would support a national ID card, the minister said: “I don’t want to go so far as to say I personally support it. What I am saying is there are a range of policy initiatives that can be advanced – one of them is that. The question is, which way the public goes with it. It’s something that I think people can live with, but you have to determine that that’s what you want to live it.”

Comments

My5Cents 4 years, 10 months ago

What the hell the passport and driver's license for?

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The_Oracle 4 years, 10 months ago

It became apparent in the E-passport exercise that in part, it was to discover and correct wrongly issued old passports. So, it seems they cannot trust their own documentation!

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UserOne 4 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, we already have documentation. The question is whether we will have to carry it around all the time. Then another question is what happens if you don't have it on you when you are asked for it?

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Tarzan 4 years, 10 months ago

Comrade Fred: Do you mean like sending a squad of goons to interrupt the Atlantis, Dolphin entertainment in front of hundreds of foreign tourists, demanding to see the work papers of the young woman who was conducting the show in her wetsuit?

Heaven forbid.

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 6 months ago

A national ID is nothing to be afraid of if you are a citizen of The Bahamas. The problem is can we trust the government system that will be ultimately responsible for issuing these national IDs? We have a serious corruption problem in this country.

My suggestion is to use the NIB system to register ALL current citizens (or at birth, or school-age etc) or non-residents at employment/residency etc and assign a number along with the necessary biometrics and issue a photo ID that will serve as a national ID for citizens, non-residents etc. This has to become LAW.

For a good reference, check out the government website of India.

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