EDITOR, The Tribune.
Re: Human Trafficking
Our governments have been having talks with governments of Haiti on the subject of illegal immigrants arriving here on boats from Haiti. These talks have been going on since the sixties.
In spite of the promises made by the Haitian governments over the decades, we have seen no attempt to cooperate with us to eradicate the traffic. It has been a waste of time and a waste of public funds.
My opinion is based on the fact that co-operation has not been forthcoming.
When Haiti was hit by the earthquake, newspaper reports indicated that at least 250 prisoners, who are considered to be dangerous escaped from the prison.
It was expected that the government of Haiti would have circulated the names, the photographs and fingerprints of the escapees.
As far as I am aware, this was never done. We don’t know who may have come to The Bahamas and are living among us.
I have repeatedly written about our failure to deal with the captains and crew of the Haitian vessels involved in the trafficking as we did in the old days when they were charged separately and imprisoned.
In those days all illegals were fingerprinted, photographed and filed in the Police Criminal Records Office.
These days, the entire lot of persons arrested are taken to the Detention Centre and eventually deported.
In recent months, there was a tragic accident, that caused the death of at least 31 Haitian immigrants on the way to us by an overloaded boat. The Associated Press was able to get information from survivors, which indicates that the boat had left Haiti overloaded and that all of the passengers had paid for the trip to The Bahamas.
In my opinion, the circumstances amount to manslaughter by negligence. The Haitian government, as far as I am aware has done nothing by way of an investigation to bring the captain, the crew and other involved to justice.
One would have expected the Haitian Consul to implement a thorough investigation in co-operation with the police to determine what happened and who were responsible for the death of his nationals.
In fact, the Haitian Consul was critical about the slow policy of our Immigration Department in the approval of permits.
It has always been my opinion that human trafficking of Haitian migrants is a thriving business operated by Haitians and Bahamians. Haitians residing here pay large sums of money to bring their relatives to The Bahamas. Money is being collected here and in Haiti.
I have worked with the Haitian police in the past, here and in Haiti. They are very capable and have an efficient Intelligence Unit. If they were interested in co-operating with Bahamas Law enforcement, boats could not leave Haiti without their knowledge and persons involved in the trafficking would be exposed.
On the morning news (22/4/14) I heard a statement made by the Minister of Immigration, which indicated to me that he now realises that there will be no co-operation forthcoming from Haiti to eradicate this major problem. I have been saying so for decades.
The last reports I have seen indicate that the number of Haitian illegals residing among us is in the area of 57,000. Bahamians are residing in communities where their neighbours speak a foreign language and are not known to them. Our government and its law enforcement have no record or information about thousands of residents in our country.
Over the decades, our governments have allowed the situation to worsen.
There is no quick remedy, but we could begin by making it difficult for the boats to get here. The implementation of the identification card for Bahamian Citizens would be excellent provided photograph and a fingerprint are included. All permanent residents and work permit holders must have cards of a different colour. The idea of an identification card was first introduced by the present Commissioner of Police. It was rejected by politicians.
The cards would be very useful to law enforcement officers when trying to identify individuals. The cards could also be used at hospitals, government schools, banks and other institutions to confirm status. Shanty towns must go. The Minister of Environment has demonstrated his commitment to this need.
The card could be used as identification for the rental of residences. It must be a criteria requested by landlords.
In New Providence, we must make it extremely difficult for illegal immigrants to reside.
Police investigations into human trafficking must be intensive and continuous. Interrogation of illegals to get information about the principals involved in the illicit trade must be intensive.
All foreigners charged with crime in The Bahamas should face deportations as was done in the past. The provision of chapter 96, tracing and forfeiture must not be ignored.
Let’s fix it.
PAUL THOMPSON Sr
April 22, 2014.