By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOREIGN Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell said he expects to hold discussions with two major international organisations in Washington, DC, next week to clarify “misinformation” about the government’s controversial new immigration restrictions.
He said he plans to meet with the secretary general of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the CARICOM caucus.
This comes in the wake of continued international criticism of the changes to the Bahamas immigration policy that took effect from November 1. The day the changes took effect, immigration officers performed raids and round-ups of illegal immigrants throughout New Providence.
Mr Mitchell told The Tribune that he suspected the backlash was “purely tactical”. He said the outrage was likely sparked by human rights activists who thrive on alarm.
“On Saturday I will explain the policy to the Bahamian community in Miami (Florida) at St Agnes and then next week Wednesday I will be in Washington, DC,” Mr Mitchell said.
“I plan to meet with the secretary-general of the OAS and also speak to the CARICOM caucus with a view to clearing up the misinformation that has been floating around. It really is the same story over and over again.
“Part of all of the backlash in large part is tactical – the work of activists.”
Mr Mitchell said he was certain that the majority of Bahamians were pleased with the work of the Department of Immigration. He referred to a recent poll that showed 85 per cent of Bahamians have no issue with the new restrictions.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also responded to global human rights group Amnesty International, which said on Monday that it was concerned about the impact the changes would have on immigrants and their children, in particular people of Haitian origin.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken note of the comments attributed to Amnesty International in relation to the enforcement of the new Bahamas immigration policy,” the ministry said in a statement.
“Amnesty International is badly mistaken. The immigration policy is humane in nature and generic in its application as no particular national grouping is being targeted. Further, it is not the policy of the Bahamas government to violate the civil or human rights of any citizen or resident and there have not been any reported cases of abuse in connection with these routine checks and interdiction exercises.
“Amnesty International is dead wrong on their account of events and risks its international reputation and credibility by pursuing this line of argument.”
Amnesty said on Monday it believed Haitians were being targeted disproportionately by immigration officers and were being denied due process before they were deported.
The entire policy, the organisation said, had never been made public, therefore making its “arbitrariness” unclear.
The new immigration measures stipulate, among other things, that every person living in the Bahamas is required by law to have a passport of the country of their nationality.
In September, Mr Mitchell announced that the government would impose new immigration restrictions on November 1 in a bid to clamp down on illegal migration, particularly from Haiti.