The Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
RIGHTS Bahamas (RB) yesterday condemned the deportation of people born in The Bahamas and reiterated its call for the Department of Immigration to end the practice.
A deportation list for November 24 was filed by the department in habeas corpus application hearings in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, and it revealed at least five people born in The Bahamas had been deported last month.
Three of those people on the list were children, the youngest of whom was just three days old at the time of his or her deportation while the others are both two years old.
One person on the list was a woman born in 1971 and RB has said she may have been a Bahamian citizen because most people living in the country were automatically regularised when the country gained independence in 1973.
“The most concerning aspect of this travesty is that the November 24 list represented a routine deportation exercise,” RB noted. “Literally hundreds of Bahamian-born individuals with the constitutional right to be registered as citizens may have been expelled over the years.
“Rights Bahamas calls upon the government to rein in this lawless and dangerous department immediately, before anyone else is wrongfully deported. We also call on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to do all it can to find these lost souls in Haiti and bring them home again.
“Coming after the explicit statement by Immigration Minister Brent Symonette that The Bahamas should not be deporting people born in the country, and the sustained outcry from the international human rights community, this revelation is further confirmation that the Immigration Department is a rogue entity which consistently operates as if it is above the law.”
The applications for habeas corpus writs were filed in the Supreme Court against the attorney general, minister of immigration, director of immigration and superintendent of the CRDC
The government will have to prove the lawfulness of the detention in 13 separate cases before Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hilton in late January.
Among those is the high-profile habeas corpus case of Jean Rony Jean-Charles.
Director of Immigration William Pratt confirmed to The Tribune that Mr Jean-Charles, who relatives said was born and raised in the Bahamas to Haitian parents, had been flown to Haiti.
Mr Pratt said Mr Jean-Charles was sent to Port au Prince, Haiti on November 24 after not being able to prove he was in the country legally.
Asked to respond, Immigration Minister Brent Symonette said people who are born in the Bahamas to undocumented foreign parents are “not usually” deported, adding he would be “disappointed” if this practice was being carried out.
Mr Symonette, however, stressed that under Bahamian law if a person is born in the Bahamas to parents who are not legal residents they would not qualify for automatic citizenship but rather have the right to apply to receive it at age 18.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court gave the government an additional 21 days to produce Mr Jean-Charles and provide evidence justifying his deportation or be held in contempt of court.
That morning the Department of Immigration deported 114 irregular Haitian migrants on Bahamasair, according to Enforcement Unit chief Kirklyn Neely, who told The Nassau Guardian the trip cost taxpayers $40,000.