By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government started bilateral talks yesterday with Turks and Caicos Islands officials with a view to formulating policies to curb illegal Haitian migration in both countries.
The discussion began the same day Immigration officials apprehended 50 illegal Haitian migrants found in the Marshall Road area.
Trilateral talks with Haitian officials will begin today. Haitian President Michel Martelly has led a delegation of Haitian officials into the country for the trilateral talks as well as discussions on trade.
Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis, who is acting Foreign Affairs minister, expressed optimism that the meetings will result in enhanced collaborative efforts.
As the latest migration statistics show there are between 20,000 and 50,000 undocumented Haitians living in the Bahamas, according to Mr Davis, the International Organisation on Migration (IOM) will conduct a study on migration from the north coast of Haiti.
“These talks represent a milestone in regional cooperation,” Mr Davis said at a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “We trust that they will be fruitful.
“As a neighbour of the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas recognises the importance of preparation in formulating an integrated response to combating irregular migration. For this reason the Bahamas looks forward to collaborating with the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) and in conjunction with the international organisation on migration to prevent irregular migration.
“The Bahamas presents its full fledged commitment in preventing illegal migration and looks forward to working with the TCI in conjunction with the IOM to combat irregular migration to our country.”
Peter Beckingham, governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands, said illegal Haitian migration is a problem that not only causes serious financial strain on governments but has taken lives. He praised the Christie administration for arranging the meetings in speedy manner.
“We have put in a number of measures to try and get a tighter grip on the problem of illegal migration,” he said. “It is costing human lives and it is costing our government money. So for those reasons and others we want to do more about it.
“I can’t help feeling that if we can match up those two areas rather more there is an area for development.
“We believe that by meeting jointly with the government of Haiti there may be areas where we can exert some persuasion to encourage them to do more about the problem that they face and we face jointly. By showing that we are united in this enterprise and in this discussion we will underline the seriousness of this problem and the hope that we can do something about it.”
Department of Immigration Director William Pratt and Royal Bahamas Defence Force Commodore Roderick Bowe were also expected to make presentations during the discussions.