By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE United States Embassy in Nassau has rejected about “50 per cent” of visa applications for Bahamian high school students wishing to study in America due to concerns of “human trafficking,” Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell revealed yesterday
Speaking to reporters, Mr Mitchell said some high schools in the US are luring Bahamian students with promises of college scholarships and a future career in basketball. However, once the child leaves the Bahamas to attend the school, administrators withhold the children’s passports, isolate them from their parents and force them to work to “earn their keep.”
“The US Embassy indicated that there is now a 50 per cent rejection rate for high school age students applying for visas in the United States,” Mr Mitchell said.
“There is a suspicion that there is a high level of fraud going on and they have indicated to us that parents should be very concerned about the schools their children are applying to. It is important because basketball is something that drives young males and young females out of this country, but young males in particular it drives them to want to leave school in the Bahamas and go to high school in the United States. They do this to obtain eligibility to get scholarships to go to college. But the problem is, we have been told, that these schools are not what they are cracked up to be. There is a suspicion that these schools have been involved in things which approximate to trafficking of persons.
“In some cases there have been allegations of passports being held by the schools, parents not gaining access to their children, the children are told they get scholarships but once they get there they are told they need to work off their debt at the school. So all of these things are contrary to what is presented by the school.”
Mr Mitchell asked parents to “exercise a degree of caution” when sending their children to high schools in the US.
“Please be careful. Make sure these schools are accredited and can take a foreign student in the United States. Go and visit the school,” Mr Mitchell said.
“Make sure you understand the terms and conditions, make sure you know what you are getting into.”
Mr Mitchell said he was told by the US Embassy that US law does not permit officials to reveal the names of the schools involved in the scheme.