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Mitchell: Grand Bahamas Human Rights Association Has 'No Credibility'

Senator Fred Mitchell.

Senator Fred Mitchell.

photo

Pierre Richard Parisien (HOPHAS); Fred Smith QC (Grand Bahama Human Rights Association); Wade McMullen (Robert F Kennedy Human Rights). Photo: Daniel Cima

By NICO SCAVELLA

Tribune Staff Reporter

nscavella@tribunemedia.net

THE Grand Bahamas Human Rights Association has "no credibility" in its attempts this week to brief the United States’ Senate on “human rights violations” they believe are being committed under the government’s new immigration policy, according to Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell.

Mr Mitchell said attorney Fred Smith in particular, the association's president, is not a "credible figure," and said Mr Smith is in the US to do what he is "specialising in - defaming his country oversees."

Mr Smith, along with GBHRA members Louby Georges, Joseph Darville and Paco Nunez, were hosted in Washington DC on Wednesday by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at a panel discussion on the state of human rights in The Bahamas. On Friday they appeared before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Mr Mitchell criticised them for their efforts, and again shot down the legitimacy of the GBHRA's complaints. He said if the association wishes to "persist in defaming their country" they would have to answer to the Bahamian public for their actions.

"They have no credibility," Mr Mitchell said. "Fred Smith is not a credible figure. He is a troublemaker, and that's what he is specialising in - defaming his country oversees. Most Bahamians think of him that way and the group that's with him, people think of them in that way as well.

"If they have any legitimate complaints they have not exhausted the local remedies and if they want to persist in defaming their country then they have to answer to the Bahamian public for that. The point is the work goes on because the law has to be enforced. It's as simple as that."

Mr Mitchell added: "(State Minister of Legal Affairs) Damian Gomez is representing the Bahamas at the IACHR hearing which this GBHRA has contrived to bring in Washington, and we expect that The Bahamas will be stoutly defended from these people defaming our country."

On Wednesday, the GBHRA said it informed the senate that since November 1, 2014, the government of The Bahamas had carried out "mass immigration raids and roadblocks in direct violation of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Bahamas Constitution."

The association also told of "hundreds of cases of wrongful detention, illegal deportation and a total breakdown of due process, as well as numerous claims of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of law enforcement officers."

“They also explained how the new immigration rules for students, set to come into force in September 2015, will effectively deny children their right to an education, in violation of the Bahamas Constitution, the Education Act, and numerous international treaties signed by The Bahamas," the association said in a statement.

Comments

lkalikl 4 years, 3 months ago

It is only Fred Mitchell that lacks credibility. Standing up for human rights is never wrong. If our government wants to address illegal immigration then the conversation must start with securing the border. Anything else is just a waste of time and our government is excellent at one thing - wasting the people's time and money. #wakeupbahamas

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Stapedius 4 years, 3 months ago

You are mistaken. Standings up for human rights is never wrong, but when one has to conjure up evidence and lies it is absolutely wrong. Smith is unbelievably dishonest and it appears will do or say anything to get his way. To even make the comparison to Nazi camps is irresponsible and stupid. It is the behavior of someone not in touch with reality. You ask for the Bahamas to wake up. Well I'm happy to say we are awake and our eyes are opened. We are able to see clearly that illegal immigration is a serious issue. We are also able to see that the Haitian government is making no effort to alleviate the problem. That being the case, we must act in our own interests. People always forget there are no friends in international politics, only interests.

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ispeakthetruth 4 years, 3 months ago

The GBHRA does lack credibility, like its fearless, not so fond of the truth, leader.

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birdiestrachan 4 years, 3 months ago

Fred Smith did tell some great big lies about the Bahamas. One would think he cares about the Average person. Not Fred he would not even say Good morning to the average person. and Joe Darville should be ashamed of himself for taking part in Fred smith's foolishness . . they are stroking this women having her baby on the floor story. Do they know how many women in the Bahamas have had their babies on the floor. they said she had no Doctor in attendance. Now they know they have worse conditions in Haiti, ..and they sure did throw Immigrations officers under the Bus. Many persons in the Bahamas have lost respect for Joe.

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killemwitdakno 4 years, 3 months ago

How come that story didn't go around until long after. Why can't we get proof because one was in fact yawn to the hospital. Mitchell also said one was staged. Who wouldn't try to avoid leaving.

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avidreader 4 years, 3 months ago

What we are seeing is the culmination of decades of very slack enforcement of immigration rules and regulations. Now that there is some effort underway to rectify the situation it is quite apparent that those most likely to come under increased scrutiny are not pleased, to say the least. My question to those raising such a fuss in another country suffering its own very large illegal immigrant problem is quite simple: What do you hope to achieve by your posturing? Will one of you be named the king of Haiti? Yes, they had self anointed emperors who lasted for a short period of time but that was centuries in the past. Don't hope for the same in this day and age.

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duppyVAT 4 years, 3 months ago

The truth is somewhere in between the lies of the two Freds .................... and I challenge any foreign human rights group to come here and find it ............... the truth is never uncovered when it involves the Bahamian government.

If we have succeeded in frustrating the UNESCO,WHO, WTO and other organizations on the country's vital statistics, can you imagine getting the truth on illegal immigrants??????????????

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killemwitdakno 4 years, 3 months ago

UNESCO, WTO, and WHO all had a say on this?

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DonAnthony 4 years, 3 months ago

I wonder if these bloggers watched the same hearing I did or have a grasp of what was said. Everything has been a resounding win for Fred Smith and for the rights of illegal immigrants. The government initially housed children in the detention centre, after criticism from Mr. smith they are no longer keep there but in a safe house leased from the Catholic Church - a win. The conditions of the detention centre was roundly criticized by Mr. Smith, now the govt has spent 1 million on upgrades - a win. It was criticised as being overcrowded now less than 200 persons detained there. Smith said Minister Mitchell was operating outside of the law, which he was, now He has been forced to bring legislation to fix this - a win. Most importantly this legislation creates a new class of pseudo citizens with all of the rights of a Bahamian except the right to vote. Those with belonger permits can be educated, have access to healthcare, enter and leave the as they wish, and work without a work permit. This is a HUGE WIN and is a radical change that will lead to tens of thousands of immigrants being regularized. There is more but Fred Smith has won on every issue and we are better for it. I applaud the govt for trying to finally fix this mess, and after much arm twisting trying to do it humanely.

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killemwitdakno 4 years, 3 months ago

Not wins. The children left unaccompanied was unexpected. It was the first time. Children in the states go in detention centers with their parents. But of course the overcrowded and inappropriate Carmichel center is reason enough for cozier hosting, but that's a treat , not standard.

The immigration lady who carried the girls was doing her job and stopped and asked very nicely about the strange woman falsely attempting to claim them. That's exactly whey they were taken , can't leave them with anyone who say they are so n so. However , I think they have enough experience by now that immigration really shouldn't be putting their hand on people's children. Since it's now expected that kids will be left, take a social worker and a separate van. Don't load them with cuffed adult strangers on a school bus.

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killemwitdakno 4 years, 3 months ago

But the rights group and Campbell saying children were cuffed and hauled off using that one vid it yen calling for a boycott of this country is hogwash. Don't be asswipes on claims like those. Squash it over and over.

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killemwitdakno 4 years, 3 months ago

" The conditions of the detention centre was roundly criticized by Mr. Smith, now the govt has spent 1 million on upgrades "

It was criticized by UNHCR years ago and was obviously on the plan since Mirchell got to tackling immigration. It was mandatory. Smith wants to look like he ran the boat for change.

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killemwitdakno 4 years, 3 months ago

It was overcrowded on the first run when immigration officers all went out in the first sweep. It can never be at maximum because you have to leave room for boat people. So Smith championed by predicting the obvious adjustments?

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killemwitdakno 4 years, 3 months ago

It doesn't need to be law. It can operate as policy which is more flexible for migrant's benefit.

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killemwitdakno 4 years, 3 months ago

Those with belonger permits were ALWAYS going to go to school, they are residents. If they were born here , they're were already traveling with a COI. Everyone including those right off the boat got free healthcare. Those with belonger's permits are kids of parents with some legitimacy to be here, how on earth do you think the kids already here with them would be excluded from such access?? Get your facts straight.

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killemwitdakno 4 years, 3 months ago

Not having the right to vote is not pseudo, it's called being a permanent resident, just like those who marry a US citizen. Did you hear Fred Smith and Louby discuss on air that they seek start a Haitian party? Did you catch any of the comment by their misled followers believing that it can be done so?

You forget this a majority rule country, if they only just become citizens straight from Haiti and can vote at that same age, that threatens our sovereignty. In the future they'd essentially be complete foreigners voting. Hence the history of votes easily bought and naturalizations the same time.

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Voltaire 4 years, 3 months ago

Mitchell will now have to stop this. The commission made it clear that the government must stop attacking, and encouraging attacks, against human rights defenders. They did so sternly and repeatedly. How will Mitchell deal with them now?

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birdiestrachan 4 years, 3 months ago

Don Anthony if all of the matters Fred Smith said were wrong were fixed why did he go to the US with the lies he told??. Fred is not pleased with the legislation that was passed. Illegals and legals persons in the Bahamas always had free medical care and free schools Nothing new there Mr: Gomez had to go to the US to show up Fred for the uncontrolled liar that he is.

Now that one with Georges losing his job , They say the Government interference cost him to lose his job. that is not true. The government has nothing to do with who Papa;s girl put on the air if they did that would have given her something to write about. there are no threats against Fred Or Joe. it is only in their heads it makes them feel important.

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DonAnthony 4 years, 3 months ago

Birdie, I am sure this meeting was arranged quite sometime ago. In fact I knew of it over a month ago. View the hearing more as an oral history of what has happened, on that account everything Fred Smith said was true, there was none of his inflammatory rhetoric. Please document these lies you are referring to, I watched the entire hearing and heard none. He simply put his best case forward. The government could not refute in detail anything he said because it was true. So Minister Gomez put his best case forward with the improvements that have taken place without addressing for the most part specific complaints. He did the best he could with a difficult hand. It is important to continue to hold the govt accountable as this has led to a more humane and just process, even you I think would admit that, and for that Mr Smith deserves our gratitude.

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Cas0072 4 years, 3 months ago

It was believed that the hearing was to address the IACHR report, so the government was not aware of all the claims. The president clarified the confusion at the start and said the hearing was not simply about that. Mr. Smith went on to gripe about issues that were not contained in the report, or represented a completely new stance. For example, he lauded the government in the local press for the belongers permit, but at the IACHR hearing he condemned it. In the local press, he called for the government to deal with the immigration backlog, but for the benefit of his IACHR performance, he took issue with launching an immigration reserve to help with immigration processing. The population at the detention center is not always constant, but again he takes issue with an immigration reserve to assist in reducing periods of overcrowding and processing time? The alleged threat on social media is hardly a threat, just another person questioning the integrity of the GBHRA. It is apparent that they embellished at every opportunity to paint the picture of a menacing government right down to taking exception to what immigration officers wear.

He also does not want illegal immigrants to be referred to as illegal. If they are not legal residents, what exactly are they? He also believes that the government should ignore any knowledge regarding illegal shanty towns, referring to immigration checks in places known to harbor illegal immigrants as "the targeting of long-standing communities." Long standing, sure. Except they are on land not owned by these individuals, nor did they secure building permits for these structures that do not comply with building codes. The delusional Mr. Smith also raised as an issue, the fact that the government wants to classify it as criminal to aid and abet illegal immigrants. These objections make no sense and I believe the government representative was as surprised as I was to hear some of the claims. What truly is Mr. Smith's goal? It seems to be more than a call for the humane treatment and due process for illegal immigrants, as even when the government works on improving these things, he still finds issues.

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killemwitdakno 4 years, 3 months ago

What alleged threat on social media?

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killemwitdakno 4 years, 3 months ago

What exactly does he want them to go through court for if it's not illegal? It's never been treated as a crime yet Smith wants them to go through court to be found guilty and then what? Locked up overtime if they can't pay a fine?
Backward.

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duppyVAT 4 years, 3 months ago

The truth is somewhere in between the lies of the two Freds .................... and I challenge any foreign human rights group to come here and find it ............... the truth is never uncovered when it involves the Bahamian government.

If we have succeeded in frustrating the UNESCO,WHO, WTO and other organizations on the country's vital statistics, can you imagine getting the truth on illegal immigrants??????????????

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birdiestrachan 4 years, 3 months ago

Don Anthony you and Fred seem to be very close. Fred had no proof of anything he said. are you saying that the detention building only started a month ago. and is already completed. He lied about the hard working civil servants he made them out to be all bad as if immigrants are all good. he even found faults with the clothes they wore. What does he want them to wear. white suits. he claims they beat them and insult them and kick them all lies. all of those Officers are not bad people. He also knows that they do have people who can speak the language of immigrants so there goes another lie. Fred smith made up those lies. and again I note those person of IACHCR are not in their native land. and we have no idea what their experiences have been. one even spoke in Spanish. they themselves are immigrants and they are expected to take the side of immigrants. They can not change our laws neither can Fred. Mr: Gomez had to go to point out Fred lies. You know him so well what is next..? the crazy hill.

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DonAnthony 4 years, 3 months ago

Birdie where to begin? I am not sure when the improvements to the detention center took place, apparently they have been since November 1 st. Let us be glad that they have been done and thank the govt. Fred Smith in his presentation did not say ALL immigration officers were abusive toward illegal immigrants those are your words. Do not misrepresent what he said. To believe that there have been no abuses in thousands of interactions is simply naive and untrue. Do we have an adequate number of interpreters? I can not say perhaps we do not. It makes no difference as to the nationality of the members of the IACHCR why you feel this is an issue is beyond me. Finally, do you realize the ramifications of the creation of belonger permits, soon to be law by your PLP govt, they have changed the law and I am sure you will not like it. It will lead to Tens of thousands of persons born in this country of Haitian descent to be regularized with all rights save the right to vote. You have lost the battle and have the PLP to thank, they have capitulated on virtually every issue and I am glad and applaud them for it.

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Cas0072 4 years, 3 months ago

According to an article in the Tribune the improvements were carried out by the BAMSI contractor in 2013. Hence, the improvements were likely done well before November 2014. I personally do not like this belongers permit crap, but I understand that due to our lackadaisical approach in administrations past we do have to give some leeway. However, it is awesome that they cannot vote.

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killemwitdakno 4 years, 3 months ago

The residency was granted from before Nov 1st. How is that a triumph for Smith? They were already in line for status and this was to prevent then being caught up in it all since they give been here. and guess what, when they save a lil in those bank accounts from now before 18 , they'll vamoose on our ass, using "I'm Bahamian " to get $100k salaries , become FL politicians and what not, then turn around and say boycott..

A quota is probably coming next.

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Voltaire 4 years, 3 months ago

@Cas0072 - as the commissioners clearly said, it was not a referendum on the consistency of Fred Smith's statements. They have their OWN independent concerns about what has been happening in this country. Those include: that detention must be the last resort, that immigrants must be given due process, the presumption of innocence and hence their day in court; that undocumented migration should NEVER be criminalized, that children should NEVER be detained, under any circumstances, and many more. Surely you heard this for yourself. This has nothing to do with Fred Smith; stop trying to deflect by shooting the messenger. Our current immigration policy violates both local and international law and needs to be sent to the scrap heap.

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ispeakthetruth 4 years, 3 months ago

They have concerns based on the unreliable information that Fred Smith and company put forth. That is not truly based on their OWN observations, but rather what was fed to them. It is now their obligation to investigate.

Detention has to be the first resort, history has proven this. The irresponsible actions of Brent Symonette and the FNM oversaw the release of known illegal immigrants. How did that work out? At the very least Voltaire, be realistic and sincere in what you present as an unbiased opinion. The cost to track and locate illegal immigrants when they have an army behind them is not something the government can consistently do. You know, as well as I do, that no illegal immigrant will attend an immigration interview. Like Fred Smith, you are deferring responsibility for intentional illegal acts to the government, and ultimately to innocent Bahamians.

There is nothing wrong, inhumane or illegal of placing blame where it lies.

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Cas0072 4 years, 3 months ago

@voltaire - Their concerns are certainly not independent as the issue was brought to them by the GBHRA and are representative of the concerns of the GBHRA and the other organizations that were represented. To date they have not conducted any independent research, and also as their previous communication was not responded to, it was during this hearing that they were directed to a specific individual to which they should address all communication. Otherwise, some of the questions that they asked would not have been questions. All of their concerns will certainly not result in exactly what they suggest. However, I respect the government for hearing them out and attempting to facilitate the requests as far as possible.

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killemwitdakno 4 years, 3 months ago

They didn't say they must be given due process

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Economist 4 years, 3 months ago

The IHCHR does not listen to every complaint that it gets. It only listens when it feels there is credible evidence. We must remember that a report that government commissioned (a former Court of Appeal judge was one of its members) did not give us a clean slate.

Mr. Mitchel should not take Mr. Smith's work personally. Mr. Mitchell spent a considerable amount of time in the late eighties to make sure that Bahamians knew the Constitution and the also understands the Human Rights issue.

I think he is playing politics by trying to show that he is strong and looking out for Bahamians when all the time he is creating a Belonger Status which will benefit tens of thousands of immigrants.

He knows that The Bahamas can't do what it is currently doing. He is probably banking on the external pressure to force him to change the law. Then he can say to the people "I tried to kick them out but you can see I was prevented from doing so."

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DonAnthony 4 years, 3 months ago

Fred Mitchell has been pandering to the Bahamian voters. He has taken a very hard line verbally against illegal immigrants, but his actions especially in creating Belongers status is the best news ever for them. I follow the actions and I am very pleased with them. These anti- immigrants and die hard plp's do not realize the rug has been pulled out from under them by Fred Mitchell and they have been sold down the river.

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Cas0072 4 years, 3 months ago

@economist, @donanthony - either way we will wind up granting citizenship or some status to more illegal immigrants than I, and probably many Bahamians, are comfortable with. Mr. Mitchell's motives, whether true or not, will bring this situation to a head which is more than I can say for any other Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration. Much has been exposed during this process. Brent Symonette basically said that nothing can be done, which explains why his administration did absolutely nothing. As a result of this experience, no longer can politicians make vague promises to rid the country of illegal immigrants. Only a detailed process and implementation plan that stands the snuff test should suffice, because we would have gone through this ugly process. With the illegal population reported to be anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000, I keep my fingers crossed that we are not too late. If it is not too late, I recommend that the next Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration read up on the Australian illegal immigration problem and the very effective solution that they implemented in spite of the "human rights" outcry.

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Economist 4 years, 3 months ago

I agree with you that Minister Mitchell as done more than any other Foreign Affairs Minister. I don't think that we are too late to stop more illegals entering the country.

You are correct, we will have to grant more Belonger Status and citizenships than most Bahamians will be comfortable with.

Had we dealt with the problem 30 years ago we would not be in this predicament.

Australia has changed its policy a great deal in the last 20 years (was a white only policy) as a result of international pressure. They are going to be forced to change it some more.

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Cas0072 4 years, 3 months ago

The policies that I am referring to were recently implemented, yet they have been very effective. They weathered the storm of "human rights" criticisms and they went from having 3500 illegal landings per month to zero in less than one year. As far as the illegal immigrant policies go, no illegal immigrant, under any circumstance, can ever be granted status as an Australian citizen. Illegal immigrants are remanded to a detention center and repatriated to their home countries in a reasonable amount of time. If they are deemed suitable for refugee status, they are eligible to apply for a three year emergency visa, after which time they are repatriated if conditions change for them in their home countries. If not, they become eligible for a Safe Haven Visa. This visa is expected to come on stream in April 2015 and the successful applicants must commit to study and/or reside in rural parts of Australia. I believe that this is the way to go because it sends the right message to potential illegal immigrants that there is absolutely no citizenship potential for illegal entry; there is a commitment to repatriate expeditiously; and should they qualify for status, they will at least need to commit to contributing to the development of the Family Islands. Most importantly, no politician can exploit the circumstances of illegal immigrants in exchange for votes.

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Economist 4 years, 3 months ago

Good points, completely agree with you.

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John 4 years, 3 months ago

The biggest Haitian threat to this country is not the illegal immigrant who come here illegally you know. These are the most humble, laoyal, "law abiding " people you want to meet. The "problem Haitian". Is those who were born here and who feel this country owes them more rights and privileges than it owes natural born Bahamians. The worst offenders, however, are those Haitians who had migrated to the U.S. or Canada and were caught up in crime then deported to the Bahamas. They are dangerous, criminally minded animals who have no respect for man or law. They the ones who need to be deported,

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