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Immigration Policy A ‘Dead End’

Haitian Ambassador Jean Victor Geneus.

Haitian Ambassador Jean Victor Geneus.

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

NEARLY two years after the government rolled out its new immigration policy to clamp down on illegal migration, the Haitian ambassador yesterday described a cumbersome, sluggish and disorganised process marred by ethnic profiling, that ultimately created a “dead end” for unregularised persons of Haitian descent in the country.

In a frank discussion with The Tribune on the efficacy of the new policy and its impact on the migrant community, Haitian Ambassador Jean Victor Geneus categorically stated that the introduction of the belonger’s permit did not solve the problem, pointing to a backlog of some 2,000 applicants waiting for the “restrictive” document.

He admitted that sometimes the Haitian government was very concerned by what appeared to be discriminatory practices against Haitians in the Bahamas.

Mr Geneus noted that he has not yet had an official meeting with Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell since he assumed the post 10 months ago, but that he would make it a priority as his government was anxious to begin formal talks on greater collaboration between the two countries on common ills of trafficking of drugs and persons.

Seeking to illustrate the on-the-ground realities that his embassy confronts as a result of the country’s new policy, the ambassador revealed that officials were currently seeking an explanation from the Immigration Department on the scheduled deportation of three children.

Mr Geneus said: “(Tuesday) I asked two professionals of the embassy to go to the immigration authorities to find out why three kids, twins aged seven and one aged 10, why they have to go back to Haiti? And nobody can tell us who is the legal person responsible for them. They will be deported this coming Thursday, but we still don’t know. If they are deported without any adult, any legal parents it would be a violation.”

In November 2014, the government introduced a stricter immigration policy that, among other things, requires every non-Bahamian to have a passport of their nationality.

The country came under heavy fire from local activists and international human rights agencies that expressed concerns that it was an opaque process that targeted Haitian migrants who were profiled, arrested and deported without due process.

Persons born in the Bahamas to foreign parents must obtain documents of their parents’ origin before they are able to apply for Bahamian residency or citizenship at 18.

Mr Geneus said: “To do so you have to go back to Haiti and apply at the Bahamas embassy, and you have a very short deadline to do it, one year. If you don’t do it you lose the opportunity. Before they were giving the certificate of identity that could be used for travelling, for school enrolment, to open a bank account, now they are giving a belonger’s permit, a belonger’s permit with restrictive aspects.

“I think there are some alternatives to this problem because when you force, when you have so many legal and administrative problems you force these people, you complicate their situation because it is cumbersome, it is complicated, it is costly for them to regularise their status in this country,” he said.

“We believe for people already holding jobs or some activities, the government for some years now could regularise their situation and after that if they want to crackdown on new arrivals that would be understood.

“But if you complicate the situation for those already here it is like a dead end.”

Mr Geneus added: “The child that is born here, it does not have any idea of Haiti. He doesn’t speak the language, and he has to go to Haiti to apply for (Bahamian) residency, then after for citizenship. It is a long and complicated process.”

The ambassador also took issue with the stipulation that applicants must apply at the local Bahamas mission in their parent’s country of origin, adding that while it was unclear, the perception was that applicants were then forced to remain in the foreign country until the application was processed.

He said officials still held the view that eligible persons could have obtained temporary permits to stay in the Bahamas until they are regularised.

“It is costly, it takes time, and administratively it is very cumbersome,” Mr Geneus said.

“As an alternative, we believe these people could have obtained a temporary permit to stay in the country until they are regularised.

“Also we believe if you have a steady job of, let’s say, at least five years, you pay taxes, you have no criminal records, and it is not an activity that Bahamians are interested to do, why deport these people?”

The Haitian ambassador acknowledged the burden the large Haitian community placed on the Bahamian government, particularly in terms of immigration control. He conceded that the political instability in Haiti did nothing to resolve or change the economic and political factors influencing Haitian migration to the country - and to this end, underscored the critical importance of Haiti’s upcoming presidential elections and the need for regional watchdogs.

When asked whether he felt conditions had normalised since the new immigration police was introduced, Mr Geneus said it was evident that it had not.

He referred to comments made by Archbishop Patrick Pinder during his homily at St Francis Xavier Cathedral in January. Archbishop Pinder decried the suggestion by Wayne Munroe, QC, of flogging illegal immigrants as a solution to illegal migration challenges, calling the proposition uncivil and indicative of a “spirit of inhumanity among Bahamians.”

Archbishop Pinder made a similar appeal for tolerance during the annual Red Mass service in January 2015. At that time, he urged Bahamians to consider the positive socio-economic impact of migration as the government continues to battle immigration challenges, adding that too often the debate is focused on the perceived negative effect illegal migrants had on employment and social services along with cultural differences.

The government has repeatedly denied accusations of profiling, and the characterisation of apprehension exercises as “round-ups”.

However, Mr Geneus insisted yesterday that the claims were not a widely held perception, but a reality.

“It is not a perception,” he said. “It is a reality because there have been recurrent actions of immigration officials even in public transportation. Definitely there is profiling because many times Bahamians have been arrested and then they find out that they are not Haitians, they are Bahamian.

“If the process is very complicated, and it takes years to regularise your situation, your status here in the country, and at the same time finding yourself in a position where anytime day or night you can be victim of a crackdown - this definitely has a psychological impact on you.”

He said: “The consequences are so tremendous that there are Haitians, they are afraid of sending their kids to school, afraid to bring their kids to the hospital for fear of being nabbed up by immigration officers and deported.

“The rounding up and deporting is not going to solve this situation that has existed for more than 60 years,” he added.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 8 months ago

This Haitian Ambassador should be encouraging his own government back in Haiti to assist with the repatriation of all Haitians illegally residing in the Bahamas. If the Haitian Ambassador and his Haitian government want their people looked after and treated humanely, then they themselves should arrange for this to be done at their own cost. The Bahamian people have done more than enough over the past 40 or so years and it has cost us dearly. It is time for Haiti to step up to the plate and bear the cost of looking after its own people, including the costs of their repatriation. It is an absurdity for this Haitian Ambassador to suggest in any way that we are inhumane when it is the inhumane Haitian government that fails to look after its own people, and constantly seeks handouts from others, like Bahamians, that could never be enough in the eyes of the Haitian government. These illegal immigrants should be seen for who and what they are......a problem caused by Haiti, the costs of which should be borne by Haiti and not the Bahamas! The Haitian government or international human rights groups should be bearing the costs of making life less miserable for these illegal immigrants; it is not in our interest to do so from the stand point of deterrence. To make life easy for them at our cost only means many more will come to our shores illegally, and likely with the Haitian government encouraging them to do so. We need to be very mindful of the fact that our sovereignty and culture as Bahamians is a very fragile one, and our economy is equally fragile and under great stress as it is. We are also now experiencing the effects of over-population given our very limited land area. We must resist caving to accusations from the Haitian government and human rights groups that Bahamians are an inhumane people when such persons, especially the human rights activists, are not willing themselves to bear the true costs of this vexing problem. We Bahamians have done all that can be reasonably expected of us over the last 40 plus years. It high time others started doing their part!

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birdiestrachan 1 year, 8 months ago

Mr: Geneus is speaking on behalf of his people He is saying that if people come to the Bahamas illegally after five years they should be allowed to stay never mind they have broken the laws of the Bahamas.

Mr Geneus nor Bishop Pinder or the activist live among the illegal immigrants, nor are they competing for the same jobs. So they talk but they do not know. Mr: Geneus should do more for his people the Bahamas and the Bahamian people have done enough.

Now that old tired story about them not knowing anything about Haiti. when the illegals came did they know anything about the Bahamas.??

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Cas0072 1 year, 8 months ago

Haitians have been complicit in clogging the system so that The Bahamas will one day be cornered into extending citizenship to all illegals regardless of where they were born. Now a member of the Haitian government is boldly trying to call the shots as to what needs to happen in The Bahamas? Instead of reaching for the victim propaganda card again, he needs to be honest and urge his people and his government to do better. They don't have one year to get their documents in order, they have 18 years to do so on behalf of their kids that were born here. If they have money to remit to Haiti, they have money to acquire the needed documents by the time their children are 18. And the fact they have to go to Haiti to obtain a passport, lays with the Haitian government. If they made any effort to comply with the laws even while dodging it, they would not be in this predicament, but this is exactly they kind of "dead end" that they have been working towards.

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jackbnimble 1 year, 8 months ago

“Also we believe if you have a steady job of, let’s say, at least five years, you pay taxes, you have no criminal records, and it is not an activity that Bahamians are interested to do, why deport these people?”

Tell me, how do you prove you have a steady job for 5 years if you entered the country illegally? Are you paying National Insurance which is a tax for those 5 years? If so, how can you qualify for a national insurance number WITHOUT a work permit? If you got a work permit, how did you get it you cannot prove you entered the country LEGALLY?

Did this man think before he spoke? Why do the leaders of these illegals continue to encourage them to break the law or insist that we reward them for doing so?

I guess the whole idea is to break the law and migrate to ANY country that will take them no matter the cost. The mindset is mindboggling.

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licks2 1 year, 8 months ago

He should go and advise the USA to do that. . .and while he is at it. . .hows about Canada! Maybe we should go and move to Haiti. . .get a job, stay for 5 years and then become Haitians! This man should be "run" out of town and sent back to Haiti and ask the Haitian Government to send us a "real" diplomat please. Thank you very much!

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SP 1 year, 8 months ago

Haitian Ambassador Jean Victor Geneus Is Either An Idiot, Or Convinced We Are Idiots

Firstly, no country has contributed more per capita or been more welcoming to Haitians than the Bahamas!

Secondly, our hospitality was rewarded with Haitians creating a totally separate parallel economy, an overwhelming human smuggling apparatus, rapid proliferation of illegal shanty towns, increased crime, grossly overburdened education, health and social services systems, cocaine and arms running cartels, massive immigration and passport fraud, greatly undermined employment opportunities for Bahamians and repatriation of $100's of millions out of the local economy.

In short, Haitians are a proven serious threat to the national security of the Bahamas!

The Haitian invasion has long been out of control. Even more drastic measures must be immediately implemented despite negative statements from so called human rights groups and Amnesty International.

Complicating Haitians situation is intentionally cumbersome, complicated and costly for them to regularize their status in this country as a deterrent because nothing else has been minutely effective!

Mr Geneus statement: “The child that is born here, it does not have any idea of Haiti. He doesn’t speak the language" is damn boldface lie! Everyone and his dog knows Haitian children are not only fluently bilingual, but also well indoctrinated in Haitian culture, as Haitians traditionally totally reject Bahamian culture and cultural assimilation in Bahamas. They are 100% Haitian!

Bahamas needs to adapt migrant workers laws of Cayman Islands where expatriate workers are not allowed to stay in the country for more than 2 consecutive years and Bermuda's citizenship policy of not granting citizenship with right to vote to anyone not having lineage or heritage to Bermuda.

The Bahamas must be protected for Bahamians! Haitians, Chinese, Africans, Jamaicans etc' must not be allowed to overwhelm Bahamians and take control of our country by shear numbers!

How can Haitians expect to come to our country and seek citizenship, when their own constitution does not grant citizenship to anyone without proof of Haitian heritage or lineage regardless of how long an individual lived or how much individuals invest in Haiti?

Mr Geneus the idiot want Bahamas to extend to his people something that his country will not extend to our people.

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My2cents 1 year, 8 months ago

Why doesn't the Haitian ambassador take some responsibility for this backlog caused by thousands of Haitians? If these illegal persons registered their kids with the Haitian embassy at birth or during childhood, and not waited until their 18 birthday to begin the process the situation would not be like it is today. This is what and who he should be addressing. Not speaking on how inefficeint the process is because he is really only suggesting and complaining that an authentication process is being followed. I prefer inefficient over none at all.

He has some nerve suggesting citizenship laws for the Bahamas. He needs to address the Haitian constitution above anything else because it affords the children of Haitian nationals born abroad citizenship, instead of complaining that Bahamas does not. As if rewarding illegal entry and irresponsible procreation is the solution. We need look no further than Haiti to see what overproceation can do.

He is talking about the inconvenience caused to Haitains, over a situation they created. What about the thousands of Bahamians who are similarly inconvenienced? So tired of hearing the victim stories when it comes to Haitians. They very much helped in making the bed they are currently lying in. Stop blaming everyone else.

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BaronInvest 1 year, 8 months ago

Wow, you guys really don't even deserve foreigners bringing money and jobs here...

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My2cents 1 year, 8 months ago

Foreign investment is a mutually beneficial arrangement. If investors did not see the Bahamas as a place where they would have substantial return they would have invested elsewhere...perhaps Haiti. So give me a break with your nonsense...every country reserves the right to handle citizenship processes as it sees fit...regardless of foreign investment.

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birdiestrachan 1 year, 8 months ago

Bishop Pinder in his statement has insulted the Bahamian people "uncivil and indicative of a spirit of inhumanity among Bahamians"**

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bogart 1 year, 8 months ago

The Haitian Ambassador went to the Bahamian public without following standard protocols in dealing with the Bahamian govt shows his disdain or lack of knowledge of the country he was delegated to conduct relations with on behalf of his country. This is inexcusable as there are other channels he could have used. His actions has now raised the ire of thousands of Haitians and Bahamians within this small land mass. Such belligerent actions seems to be the trend as Haiti is defying the US and the EU over the matter of elections again. The actions of encouraging and promoting what may be thousands of illegals to remain illegally instead of requesting his country's citizens to follow the Bahamian laws and return to Haiti shows his contempt of the Bahamas and the majority of lawful citizens many of whom have followed the law and are now Bahamian citizens. Such actions should be viewed as destabilizing the proper administration of Bahamian laws and his status should be revoked immediately. Bahamians whose ancestors struggled, sacrificed, endured racial indignities, lack of civil rights and overcame by peaceful and not peaceful civil disobedience did not do so for the benefit of 12 million Haitians but our own 350,000 Bahamian citizens and sovereign nation. The Ambassador should be in Haiti fighting for rights of his people there instead of in the Bahamas where children without parents and human traffickers who transport them should suffer the worst penalty according to Bahamian law and be handed over to Bahamian attorney Monroe to prosecute. Smuggling many young children in rickety boats on the high seas is totally unacceptable and much worse is any encouragement or acceptance or defense of these actions by the Ambassador. Stiff penalty and firm action is immediately needed to stop the human trafficking.

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 8 months ago

Anyone (and their children) who comes to this country illegally should not expect a free ride to citizenship ............... why is the Highshun Ambassador whining about that???? ......... Hold your frigging people accountable for their immigration infractions!!!!!!!!!!

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