By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOREIGN Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell said yesterday that the government will use every resource to fight any smear campaign against the country.
Standing on special privilege yesterday, Mr Mitchell said the continued criticism from the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association lacked credibility and painted the country in a negative light.
Mr Mitchell added that a meeting with the heads of all law enforcement agencies in the Bahamas would convene today to discuss strategies to tackle illegal migration in Abaco. He said discussions would centre around deciding the timing and logistics of the wide-spread operation.
He explained that Abaco operations would be conducted in an open and transparent way to curb misunderstandings of how the government intended to execute its immigration policies.
Mr Mitchell said the idea of portraying illegal migrants as poor people escaping from poverty should be juxtaposed against the fact of reports that these trips of illegal migrants cost from $1500 to $5,000 a head.
The hefty price tag was a signal that the country was dealing with a criminal enterprise, according to Mr Mitchell, who said the new policies disrupted that criminal enterprise.
“The policies have widespread public support,” Mr Mitchell said. “We are cognizant of the fact that without that support the policies cannot be successful. “The aim of the policy is several fold: to ensure the integrity of the work force and its ‘Bahamianness’; to ensure the national security of our state and protect its cultural integrity; to regularize those who find themselves in a legal Catch 22 where appropriate; to exclude from the country those who have no right to live and work here.
“This policy is not targeted at any national group. It is a generic policy.”
Mr Mitchell, who is also the MP for Fox Hill, spoke of a report on the Carmichael Road Detention Centre released by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) last week.
In it, the report issued precautionary measures over alleged conditions at the detention centre and gave the government two weeks to adopt them. The Minister noted that the Bahamas is not a signatory of the convention which establishes the IACHR.
He said: “I wish to remind the public that they should remain calm in the face of the many provocations about our country that now seem to be piling on. When one examines the facts, the public will find that the sources of the information are the same.
“We do not deny that there may be issues surrounding the policies that are open to debate or that can be challenged, but we deny that there is any official policy of targeting any national group, nor is there any official sponsoring of abuse of any kind against migrants in this country. The Bahamas remains a welcoming, lawful country.
“There is an attempt by the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association in particular to paint The Bahamas in an unflattering light. Their motivations are unknown, but they lack credibility and are disreputable in the process. We will fight any smear of our country with every resource that we have,” Mr Mitchell said.