IMMIGRATION Minister Fred Mitchell announced that government will impose new immigration restrictions in a bid to clamp down on illegal migration, particularly from Haiti.
This includes the consideration of a ban on people who have previously entered the Bahamas illegally and have been deported from ever obtaining legal status. As of November, the government will also impose new work permit procedures, the Fox Hill MP said.
He said the government will also mandate, as of November, that all people living in the Bahamas have a passport of their nationality.
“With effect from November 1, 2014 new procedures are to come into force with regard to work permit procedures, and it is envisaged that the regulations will be amended and the policies accordingly,” he said.
He said that as of November 1, the government aims to have employers who are applying for first-time work permit holders who are residents of Haiti to come to the Department of Immigration and pay the $100 processing fee, provide a labour certificate, cover letter, stamp tax of $30 and the employee information sheet in Nassau.
He said that information will be forwarded to the Embassy of the Bahamas in Port-au-Prince, Haiti where the applicant will fill out the application form and provide the supporting documents. The applicant must be certified as personally seen by an embassy officer in Port au Prince, he said.
“I also wish to announce that we will as of November 1 require all persons who live in the Bahamas to have a passport of the country of their nationality,” Mr Mitchell said. “Those people who have been born here will get a particular residence permit which will allow them to work and live here until such time as their status pursuant to any application under the terms of the Constitution is decided.
“This will also allow access of children to school. This will not apply to the children of those who are here illegally. The Haitian president and the ambassador have confirmed that they will be able to meet the demand for these passports.”
Mr Mitchell said that holding a foreign passport does not prejudice the right of anyone under the Constitution to apply for citizenship of the Bahamas.
He also said that “with immediate effect” the government will not accept applications for people who do not have legal status to work in the country.
“Anyone who comes to do so, the application will be refused and the applicant will be arrested and charged and deported,” he said in the House of Assembly. “The Cabinet is considering a permanent prospective ban on all people who have come here illegally and have been deported so that they will not ever be able to qualify for a permanent status in the Bahamas.
“We are allowing a period for comment before proceeding with a formal proposal in this regard. The intention is to have new regulations or policies in place on this subject by January 1, 2015, subject to any exigencies,” he said.
It is also proposed that as of November 1, the practice of issuing certificates of identity to non-nationals born here will cease.
“These will only be for Bahamians who have a need for an emergency travel document or where in accordance with our international obligations we are to issue them to non-nationals,” the minister said.
He said the new rules are necessary to crack down on the “criminality involved in immigration”.
“This requires the efforts of all Bahamians to guard our borders and protect our country. We are particularly concerned about what is happening in Abaco and special attention is being paid to that island and to Eleuthera where many residents believe that things have gotten totally out of hand. It is important for us to address it before it gets out of hand.
“There are reports that there are in some sections of those islands no go areas for public officials. This cannot stand and this will be stopped.”
Nearly 100 illegal Haitian immigrants were picked up by Defence Force officers on Monday. On Tuesday five Cubans were picked up by officials on Cay Lobos.