By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE government should execute planned immigration raids in shanty towns in Abaco humanely and with consideration for the large number of Bahamian dwellers in these communities, Central and South Abaco MP Edison Key said.
Mr Key explained that the Mud and Pigeon Peas settlements are also populated by Family Island residents seeking low-cost accommodations, adding that some families of Haitian descent have lived there since the country’s independence.
He said that he supported the government’s new immigration policy, and hoped it would lead to improvements in the Christie administration’s ability to process eligible applicants for citizenship or permanent residency.
“Those that are there illegally, whatever the government’s rules or regulations put forth I guess they will have to abide by it,” Mr Key said during a recent interview with The Tribune. “I think persons who have been here for many years and have family, their children are now grown, I think they should all be regularised.
“In Abaco, there are a lot of persons who live in the Mud or Pigeon Peas who are not of Haitian descent, some of them from Exuma or all over the place. They go there so they can get a cheap rental.”
Immigration and Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell revealed earlier this month that the Immigration Department would begin “major operations” on the Family Islands next month. Mr Mitchell said exercises would start in Abaco, but will also spread to Exuma and Eleuthera.
According to the new restrictions, as of November 1, the government mandates that first-time work permit applicants who are residents of Haiti must fill out their applications and provide supporting documents at the embassy in Port-au-Prince.
It is also mandatory for all persons living in the Bahamas to have a passport of their nationality.
According to officials, persons born in the Bahamas to non-Bahamians will be granted a special residence permit that will allow them to work until the status of their citizenship application has been determined.
“The people cannot allow the country to be taken over by any foreign country and eventually they will own us if we continue to do it, but I think anyone who has been born here, and is 18, I think they should apply and the government should consider them for citizenship,” Mr Key said.
“Otherwise they have nowhere to go, because if they go back to Haiti they’re not Haitians. We have to be concerned about persons in that kind of position.”
Mr Key added: “Some of them don’t have family born here, there are Haitians living in these areas in Abaco probably been here for 40 to 50 years and some of them, many of them are permanent residents and also many of them have passports.”
He added: “Anywhere (immigration) goes they should be humane. These people are human, (but) when you look at Haiti we can’t afford to take care of their entire population, I think once we sort it out and the illegals are sent back home, I think it’s easy then for the government to regularise persons who really are eligible for consideration to be permanent resident or citizen.”