FOREIGN Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell, said the Government of the Bahamas enjoyed “successful” bilateral discussions with Haiti during a recent meeting held there on March 27.
Migration and technical cooperation, including matters of trade and expanding the Bahamas’ diplomatic presence in Haiti, were among topics of the discussions during the meetings.
The Bahamian delegation included Minister of State for National Security, Keith Bell; Assistant Director of Immigration, Hubert Ferguson; and Royal Bahamas Defence Force Commodore, Roderick Bowe.
On the issue of migration, which he described as perhaps most “vexing”, Mr Mitchell said, “While we cannot fix this problem, we can better manage the problem and that is what the discussions in Haiti were about.
“We wanted to be sure that the Haitian Government understood and that we have an understanding with them about the level of exasperation we have on this issue and that we pledge to work together to try and resolve the migration of people into this country unlawfully and without documents from the north of Haiti.”
Both countries have agreed to a public education and communications programme in the north of Haiti to discourage people from making the journey from Haiti to the Bahamas. The Governments have also agreed to improved cooperation between military forces which includes beefing up intelligence to drive the fight against illegal migration to the Bahamas.
“As a part of that we are looking toward beefing up our diplomatic presence in the north of Haiti so that we have personnel who can work on the ground to try and spot this before it starts and stop it of sorts. All of these are aggressive measures taken by the government and proposed by the government to try and get on top of this problem.
“One of the messages we wanted to reinforce down there was the fact that we’re about to spend close to $250 million buying these nine new ships, and these nine new ships are the muscle behind the promise with regard to stopping illegal migration,” Minister Mitchell said.
Mr Bell described the talks between the two countries as “very critical”. He said the delegation expressed the view that illegal entry of dangerous drugs is a major concern for the Bahamas.
“Another component in our talks with the Haitian government is that whenever these persons venture on unseaworthy craft, as we have had a number of disasters at sea, both countries end up with a black eye. Apart from that, our Defence Force has to go out there and it places psychological stress and trauma on our officers to actually go and recover these bodies. It’s important that we from a number of stand points to get out there and do what we can to ensure that illegal migration and other organised crimes are put to a stop.”
Delegates from both countries discussed ways to improve the economy in the north of Haiti. The Bahamas is seeking to conclude negotiations on a sanitary agreement which would allow the export of fresh fruit from Haiti directly to the Bahamas, said Mr Mitchell.
He thanked the delegation for their support and acknowledged the efforts of the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in organising meetings and discussions.