By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
A WOMAN born in the Bahamas of Haitian parents has accused Department of Immigration officers of assault and “wrongfully” apprehending her after they picked her up during a routine exercise on Cowpen Road.
Dahene Nonord, 19, yesterday said that while she was not carrying her Bahamian documents that show her legal status to reside here when Immigration officials approached her around 9am Wednesday, there was no excuse for her to be abused. Ms Nonord has applied for Bahamian citizenship and is currently waiting for government to make a decision on her application.
The assault, she claimed, happened as an immigration bus took her to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre and continued during her short stay at the facility.
Ms Nonord visited The Tribune yesterday to give an account of “the most terrifying day of her life.”
She was still visibly shaken and complained of severe body pain, however The Tribune saw no visible bruises on her.
She said she was kicked several times, punched and put in a head-lock.
She said she plans to take legal action against the government for the ordeal.
“I feel that what happened wasn’t supposed to happen,” she said. “I was not supposed to be beaten by the officers.
“I asked them where in the law it said (when) you go in the Detention Centre it say that people should be beaten. Everyone is human and we have the same blood. None of us are different, we only speak different languages. I was born here even though both my parents are Haitian.”
Fred Smith, a human rights activist and the lawyer who plans to represent Ms Nonord, said he found the incident “disgraceful”.
He accused the Immigration Department of acting as if they are a law unto themselves.
Mr Smith said: “It is a disgrace that in the Bahamas, in this day and age that Bahamians are being picked up off the street.
“The Immigration Act does not give officers any greater power. It says that their powers are the same as the police.
“I am encouraged that young Bahamians are standing up for their lives and I encourage anyone else illegally arrested, detained or abused to go to the thousands of lawyers in this country and sue the government.”
According to Ms Nonord, after being questioned about her nationality and being unable to produce a passport she was put on an immigration bus.
“They asked me if I was born here. I told them I was, right in the Princess Margaret Hospital. My parents are Haitian, but I born here and I am Bahamian.
“I told them not to touch me and we were cursing each other. After awhile they grabbed me and I was trying to defend myself.
“About seven of them then grabbed me and was holding me. They handcuffed me and threw me on the bus.
“I was there on the bus speaking up for my rights and I said to them they need to stop discriminating (against) the people who were born here.
“And I think that because I kept talking on the bus they slapped me and choked me and body slammed me down in the bus.”
She said she was taken to the Detention Centre where the verbal and physical abuse continued.
Ms Nonord said she was released several hours later when her parents brought documents to verify her status.
Following her release, Ms Nonord said she visited the Department of Immigration on Hawkins Hill to file a complaint. However, she said an official there said her account was not the truth and did not allow her to make a report.
When told about the allegations yesterday, Fred Mitchell, immigration minister, said he had no knowledge of Ms Nonord’s incident. When asked if it was something that would be investigated if she again attempted to file a complaint, Mr Mitchell did not say.
However, he said, there were two mechanisms that could be used if she felt wronged. These include either sending a written complaint to the Department of Immigration or reporting the matter to the police.