By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
AN independent board will be established to review applications for citizenship to ensure politicians are not able to abuse the process by which citizenship is granted, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced yesterday.
“To make the grant of citizenship fairer and more transparent, I have asked the minister responsible for immigration to bring the necessary legislation to establish an independent board to review applications for citizenship,” Dr Minnis said as he wrapped up the budget debate yesterday.
“This will remove the decision from the politician and Cabinet. However, those that are considered to be of national security concern will be referred to Cabinet for final decision. I don’t think in this time and era Cabinet officials should be making decisions on who is granted citizenship. The guidelines are A, B, C, D and you either meet it or you don’t. I have no intent of sitting down going through thousands of applications for citizenship. We have sufficient honest people who can tick the box and grant the citizenship thus removing the backlog and the possibility of corruption. This will allow for less interference and more openness in the process of obtaining citizenship.”
During his contribution to the budget debate, Minister of Financial Services, Trade, Industry and Immigration Brent Symonette also backed a move to delegate the task of granting citizenship to an entity not inclusive of politicians.
“I’ll only say, I’m sure the president of the United States doesn’t sit (or) the prime minister of Great Britain (doesn’t sit) on every immigration application to see whether or not to grant citizenship to a person that does apply,” Mr Symonette said.
In 2015, former Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said he would welcome the appointment of a citizenship commission to allow applications to Bahamian citizenship to be processed without “political interference”.
Mr Mitchell said the proposed commission “would receive the application, examine whether the individual meets the criteria set down in the Constitution and the Bahamas Nationality Act” and determine if the person should be granted citizenship.
At the time, he said procedures for citizenship had not changed in 42 years and were unlikely to change as long as Bahamians believe their representatives ought to have input into who becomes a citizen of the Bahamas or a permanent resident.
Despite Mr Mitchell’s preference, it’s not clear if the former Christie administration had plans to create such a commission.