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Human Rights Group Requests Hearing At Oas Over Immigration Policy

THE Grand Bahama Human Rights Association has teamed up with two international human rights organisations to request a joint hearing before the Organisation of American States on the new immigration policy.

The GBHRA seeks to refute specific statements made by Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell in a special meeting of the OAS Permanent Council last month.

It also pledged to bring expose alleged human rights abuses, procedural violations and unlawful detention exercises that they believe have characterised the government’s new immigration enforcement policy, launched on November 1, 2014.

In its joint request, the groups stated: “Amidst reports of indiscriminate raids and arrests and ill-treatment of immigration detainees at Carmichael Road Detention Centre, as well as the roundup of persons suspected to be irregularly residing in the Bahamas, we are motivated to request a hearing before the IACHR to address the human rights violations resulting from the implementation of this new immigration policy.

“A thematic hearing on this topic would also allow us to highlight the intersectionality of discrimination based on race, nationality, and socio-economic status by law enforcement and in the Bahamian justice system.”

It added: “It would also allow us to analyse the recent negative developments in the Bahamas against regional trends in the treatment of migrants and afro-descendants – in particular the treatment of Haitian migrants and persons of Haitian descent in the Caribbean.”

The statement pointed to similar concerns raised in 1987 over “similar violations”, adding that the current environment was part of “a decades-long pattern of human rights abuses, periodically exacerbated by successive governments’ intent on stoking the fires of popular anti-migrant sentiment to achieve political ends”.

The group plans to make presentation on: negative impact of the policies; claims that detentions are on a case by case basis; the targeting of Haitians and tacit encouragement of widespread discrimination; mischaracterisation of conditions at the main migrant detention centre; and claims of physical abuse, mistreatment and unlawful detention since November 1, 2014.

Mr Mitchell delivered a multi-layered defence of the government’s new immigration policy during his address before the OAS on December 16.

Responding to local and international criticism, he emphasised that the country conducts its business in accordance with the Constitution and international standards.

The special meeting, held in Washington, DC, was scheduled at the request of Mr Mitchell to address what he has called misinformation about the new immigration restrictions.

Mr Mitchell told the OAS the government’s policy and actions should not be surprising to anyone given that the Progressive Liberal Party announced the plans during the lead-up to the last general election.

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