By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
ILLEGAL migrants in the Bahamas must leave the country by December 31, 2017, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis declared yesterday, as he warned an aggressive pursuit and deportation will be the fate of anyone who does not comply.
Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday, the prime minister underscored that the deadline applied to all nationalities, adding that Bahamians and residents who also employ these illegal persons have the same timeline by which to either regularize them or cease employment. He stressed that people who employ illegal migrants after this time will be prosecuted, and implored Department of Immigration officials to execute their duties in a professional and humane manner.
“We must be a country that abides by the rule of law,” Dr Minnis said during the wrap up of a resolution thanking Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling for reading the Speech from Throne in May.
“Those migrants who are here illegally must leave by December 31, 2017. After which period they will be aggressively pursued and deported. This applies to all nationalities.
“Those Bahamians and residents who employ illegal migrants have until December 31, 2017 to regularise these individuals or to stop employing them.
“I implore Immigration Officers to execute their duties in a professional and humane manner.
“Those who illegally employ such migrants are legally liable and they will be prosecuted. We must be a country of law and order.”
Earlier in his address to Parliament, Dr Minnis said illegal migration was a “vexing” problem, which his administration intended to continually address.
He said emphasis would be placed on the process of granting and renewing work permits and visas.
“We will continue to process permanent residency applications for those who have legally been in The Bahamas for an extensive period of time, who have contributed to The Bahamas and satisfy the requirements.
“This is a fair and just course of action. We will also continue to grant citizenships to those who are legally entitled.”
“I don’t think people understand what it is like when you are legally entitled to citizenship but you do not have the proper documents.
“As others pointed out you cannot open a bank account you cannot travel. You have difficulty entering the university of the Bahamas to finish your education. You are faced with a no man’s land. Until you live it you don’t understand,” Dr Minnis said.
Last month, Dr Minnis said an independent board would be established to review applications for citizenship to ensure politicians are not able to abuse the process by which citizenship is granted.
In November 2014, the Christie administration faced fierce criticism over the introduction of a stricter immigration policy. It required every non-Bahamian to have a passport of his or her nationality among other things. Months later, the government said every child of foreign parents would need a student permit to attend school.
During his address to colleagues yesterday, Dr Minnis went on to suggest the Progressive Liberal Party had been the root cause of crime in the country. He said his administration intended to prosecute corrupt practises.
He said: “The Progressive Liberal Party has a complicated legacy. It led The Bahamas to majority rule and independence. It was once the compelling voice against forces who denied the dignity of the majority of our people.
“However, soon after taking power the PLP was seduced by the narcotic of unbridled power. They forgot that they ruled on behalf of the people. Deals were made to make PLPs rich. Policy was advanced to ensure PLP influence crept into every sector of our economy and society.
“The public service was stacked with political appointees who did not need to work in order to get ahead. Loyalty to ‘the chief’ was what was important. It did not matter if you came to your government job on time. It did not matter if you showed up at all. When you did turn up, you could run your own business out of the state’s offices. One could use government supplies and equipment at will. The PLP looked the other way. It was primarily concerned with getting rich. Many standards fell dramatically. Our culture was harmed.”
“Some of them got in bed with international drug traffickers who were allowed to set up shop on our islands shipping untold millions of dollars’ worth of poison to North America. Some of the poison stayed here bringing ruin to many young and promising Bahamians. Some PLPs got extremely rich in this illicit trade.
“The PLP at the highest levels turned a blind eye to this cauldron of drugs and corruption, and its devastating affect on our children, on our values and on our good name as a country.
“Many Bahamians developed the misguided view that hard work was not needed to succeed. Fast money was what was sought. Again, standards fell. Our culture was degraded. Much of our social fabric was ripped apart.’
“The party that was charged with making this nation great perverted it. Today our streets are violent. Our education standards are low. Corruption is a way of life for too many, especially those who have gotten away with their corrupt ways for decades.
“But this is a new day. My government will prosecute the corrupt,” the prime minister continued.