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Schools Told To Admit Migrant Pupils

Minister of Immigration Brent Symonette.
Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff

Minister of Immigration Brent Symonette. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

NO child should be denied education because of their status, according to Immigration Minister Brent Symonette, who yesterday implored all school administrators to “admit” students and contact his office for any needed clarification.

Mr Symonette, whose ministerial portfolio also includes financial services, trade and industry, said no government should prohibit any student from maintaining their education due to an “apparent immigration issue.”

He indicated resources have been allocated in his ministry to handle all applications in the process of equipping school age children with the adequate permits needed to enrol and attend school.

“Principals should admit these students to school so that they can maintain their education,” he told The Tribune on Sunday. “If there is a difficulty getting a belonger’s permit or whatever permit it is that they need, the administrators should email me so that we can regularise those persons’ status, so that they can attend school.”

He added: “But children should not be denied access to education because of an apparent immigration issue. We are making sure that persons who apply, receive the appropriate belonger’s permit so that they can attend school.

“There is a department that deals with this issue specifically. I am being made to believe that we are doing a very good job at it, but if persons have slipped through the cracks, we urge them to contact the Immigration Department and/or myself.”

Last week The Tribune reported about a Haitian mother who said she was considering placing her 11-year-old special needs son in the care of the state after he was allegedly denied access to school for three consecutive years because of the country’s immigration policy.

Jan Pierre, 36, told The Tribune the grim prospect for her son Watson was one of only two options at her disposal, having exhausted attempts to obtain the required documentation for her child because of her own status.

The second would be to send him to Haiti to live with his father, a place he’s never been and a setback that would drastically inhibit his ability to apply for Bahamian citizenship.

The 2014 policy mandates that every person living in the Bahamas has a passport of their nationality with proof to legally reside in this country, among other restrictions, like the requirement for every foreign person enrolled in schools, including children born in the Bahamas to immigrants, to have a student permit.

Although the policy was introduced in November 2014, the restrictions did not come into effect until the Fall 2015 school semester.

Then Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell explained the school permit rule would help the government keep track of who works and lives in the Bahamas and who attends schools here.

When asked if the Minnis administration had attempted to address any of the issues surrounding the controversial policy, Mr Symonette yesterday said the Minnis administration was working to address several key aspects of the policy behind the scenes.

However, he indicated that in the interim, no child should be forced outside of the system.

Mr Symonette admitted that he was unsure of exactly how many children were being affected by the policy, pointing to the lack of computerised systems in the Department of Immigration.

Nonetheless, Mr Symonette said that all was being done to “improve” the processes surrounding the issue.

“One of the great problems we have with immigration is that things are not computerised, so we have no way of knowing the number of applicants. But over the year, most of those persons should have gotten their permits,” he said.

“So it can’t be that many. Once we know about them, we will deal with them.”

Rights Bahamas has repeatedly raised concerns over the harmful, dehumanising conditions created by the 2014 immigration policy, which activists saw as an attempt to legitimise inhumane state practices against unregularised or undocumented persons.

In 2015, while out of office, Mr Symonette warned that making it harder for children of immigrants to get an education could create a slippery slope that results in a myriad of long-term social problems for Bahamians. He was appointed minister of immigration after the 2017 general election, a post he held in the previous Ingraham administration.

Comments

tell_it_like_it_is 3 weeks ago

Never thought I'd see the day that I agreed with Brent Symonette. But Minister Symonette I agree with you on this one wholeheartedly.

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TalRussell 3 weeks ago

Comrades! School attendance in the Bahamaland is compulsory if a child is between the ages of 5 and 16..............And, that includes all the children of parents or guardians with outstanding immigration issues.
There are 158 government operated schools across the Bahamaland, and i'm presuming that all have email connections.... which means within seconds that each of the 158 schools principals can email the minister of immigration with the EXACT numbers of children their respective school turned away in September 2017, because of a parents/guardians immigration issues. There should be no mystery when it comes to how many children have been refused admittance to government schools because of immigration issues, during the month of September 2017.

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TheMadHatter 3 weeks ago

They would do that - except that they do not want anyone to know exactly how many of them they are. If Bahamians knew how large the number was - they would not be able to sleep at night.

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TalRussell 3 weeks ago

Comrade TheMadHatter, the fact that government operated schools can even keep such records is against the law of the land. Just because a minister of immigration announces a policy - doesn't make it legal to enforce.

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birdiestrachan 3 weeks ago

If it is said that the class rooms of the Government schools are over crowed. It does not matter. Mr Small things Symonette children nor his grand children attend these schools If they did he would have a different story. it is all right. "Its the peoples Time" And what ever is done it is what the people of the Bahamas voted for.

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realfreethinker 3 weeks ago

Go away PLEASEEEEEEEEE !!!!!!!!!!!!

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NassauBoy77 2 weeks, 6 days ago

The overcrowding is a separate issue and needs to be addressed. The answer is not to deny any child within our borders access to education.

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birdiestrachan 3 weeks ago

The wicked all over the place talking about Christian Nation. But only when they choose. Not Christian in how they treat commissioner Greenslade, Not Christian when they put all of those Bahamians out of work to save money they say. Not Christian when they stop payment of Social services for two months.

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DillyTree 3 weeks ago

Birdie, as always, your shortsightedness (and those like you) are the reason our country never seems to get ahead. By your logic, we should deny children schooling because of petty government nonsense and overcrowding. What do you propose we do with those same unschooled children in 10 or 20 years when they have no education and resort to crime because they have no basic marketable skills? Oh wait, that was the PLP's vision -- keep them ignorant and stupid so they would vote PLP.

Those days are gone, Birdie! Thank heavens.

The basic UN charter guarantees education to every child -- why can't we?

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themessenger 3 weeks ago

You right Birdie wickedness been walking this land for the last five years, look no further than dumb and dumber on the front page today. The great christian Perry owe WSC $23,000 but couldn't give his former constituents running water in forty years, ain't all our people stupid as you.

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sheeprunner12 3 weeks ago

The public school system in Nassau is unable to take in more students because of physical and HR limitations ........ The public school system in the Out Islands needs revamping and consolidation before more students can be added ..... but MOE seems to have no vision

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sheeprunner12 3 weeks ago

BTW: Can Brent request that the private schools open their doors for more students ........ if the fees are right??????......$2,000 per Dominican per term????

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TheMadHatter 3 weeks ago

Okay, so we are now having the same problem here that Europe is having with Syrians and other Arabs.

This is a serious thing. We have to play the way the game is played. Bahamians - STOP buying condoms and other forms of contraceptives. Make the babies. Have one every 11 months. DO NOT worry about where the food will come from or how you will afford school uniform or books or anything whatsoever. CHILDREN ARE KING. The United Nations, UNICEF, CARICOM, or some other group will take care of your children.

The survival of the Bahamian genome and culture is at stake. Get busy y'all. Turn off them TV and find something else to do. The world is currently experiencing a new form of GENOCIDE whereby one culture annihilates another simply by out-breeding them. This is the new race. This is the new game. You have seen it operating here already. Now it is being taken to another level. Read about what has been happening in Europe since 2014.

Genocide by procreation. I guess this is one of those things that "nobody ever thought of before" like when the planes were flown into the twin towers. Brand new invention. They don't drop bombs - they drop babies.

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birdiestrachan 3 weeks ago

I never said any one should be denied schooling. But I did say. If the schools are overcrowded And the children are denied the proper schooling. Brent Mr: Small Things Symonette can not care less His children nor his grand children are in these schools.

That is the bottom line . Those are the facts.

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TalRussell 3 weeks ago

Comrades! It's highly unlikely this offer to the Dominicans was a cabinet decision. PM Minnis, KP and Jeff Lloyd, have shared tendencies to announce policies and programs that are naked of costs to implement.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks ago

"....children should not be denied access to education because of an apparent immigration issue."

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TheMadHatter 3 weeks ago

Birdie...i think you make a good point that a lot of these quantity vs quality people are missing. YES they may be "in school" but what the heck are they learning. I guess the D average answers that question along with the murder rate.

So to them i say go ahead and invade us. You will still be living in the same Hell-hole you came from in effect because you are simply transforming the Bahamas into one.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks ago

"....{illegal immigrant} children should not be denied access to education because of an apparent immigration issue."

Symonette is about as two faced as they come. He already knows full well that Bahamian children in our public education system (not his own very privileged children and grandchildren of course) are being denied access to education because of illegal immigration issues causing classroom over-crowding and other serious problems. The whole world and certainly our private sector employers know all about our D- graduates, many of whom cannot read beyond a third grade level, have great difficulty writing anything and are unable to do basic arithmetic.

But Symonette, who has failed us once before as Minister of Immigration under an Ingraham-led administration, seems quite content to personally over-see the very easy task of issuing pieces of paper (permits) to exacerbate the very serious resource problems faced by the Bahamian parents of 'legal' students and our Minister of Education (Jeff Lloyd). Instead of doing something meaningful to tackle the illegal immigration problem, we once again have Symonette as a feckless Minister of Immigration being unwilling to participate in the introduction, implementation and enforcement of policies that would help discourage and deter illegal immigrants from coming to our shores to have 'anchor' babies galore.

"Yes", it seems Symonette is indeed a 'small' man unwilling to look after the Bahamian people's interests with the same degree of vigor and dedication that he employs in looking after his family's financial empire. All he is prepared to do as an experienced politician and cabinet minister is kick the can containing the full unfavourable impact of the illegal immigration problem over to the Ministry of Education headed by a cabinet minister (Jeff Lloyd) who is serving in government as an elected official for the first time. No doubt Symonette is similarly inclined to shove all of the challenges and problems presented to our healthcare system by illegal immigrants over to the Ministry of Health, but hopefully Dr. Douane Sands calls him out for doing nothing about the illegal immigration problem from an effective immigration policy standpoint. Shame on you Symonette!!!

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Reality_Check 3 weeks ago

This dinosaur of a politician looks only after his own - Symonette could not care less about our Bahamian children and the quality of their education! Minnis allowed Symonette to get elected in a safe constituency for one reason only - he needed a white man of considerable wealth who could open doors for him in certain places that would otherwise not be opened.

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OldFort2012 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Such as? I doubt Brent can open any door apart from the Lyford Cay Club. If one wanted to go there. Awful place.

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My2cents 3 weeks ago

To"regularise" a minor instead of deporting them with the illegal parent means regularising the parents as well. They reaffirmed that the anchor baby trap works! Clearly the illegal immigrants know what some of us refuse to accept...immigration laws are useless. Future illegals already know the Bahamas is theirs for the taking. So why do immigration laws, the department and the defense force even exist?

The government should at least be honest with its citizens regarding its immgiration plans because it seems the floodgates are being opened even wider. At least give the disenfranchised Bahamians a heads up that their fight for resources is about to become tougher. And alert those wishing to return to consider other options. When home is transformed to Haiti there is really no other incentive to live in an overpriced, overcrowded and lawless society.

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Emac 3 weeks ago

Ok Mr. Symonette! Now that you have opened the flood gate, please tell us how are we gonna fix this vexing problem that is affecting every other Bahamians except you and your rich elite colleagues, who don't give a shit, or never will use the public school or public health system. You simply CANNOT reverse a policy that has been put in place to put a cap on this problem without putting in procedures to protect this new policy from abuse. But ya know what, since the FNM government is failing to listen to the masses, then y'all gon be next to get booted out of office. But I am sure my then, there will be a million illegals versus 300,000 Bahamians. Viva Las Bahamas!

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sheeprunner12 3 weeks ago

This is so funny ........... Brent is asking for our challenged schools to take in Dominicans ...... but he has no clue what principals, teachers, students and their parents face in these schools ......... After all, he did not spend ONE DAY in any of these Bahamian schools ...... he went to foreign boarding school - far away from the peasantry

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sheeprunner12 3 weeks ago

He ............ nor his children ........ nor his grand-children went to these peasant schools

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SP 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Brent Symonette is a complete, rich, jackass who could care less about average Bahamians!

No country in the hemisphere except the Bahamas is stupid enough to allow unfettered access to illegal Haitians....Just jackass Brent thinks it's a grand idea.

PM Sheriff Minnis need to cause the promised parliamentarian recall bill to be tabled in the HOA so "we the people" can have the opportunity to show Brent what we think of his horseshit.

Brent Symonette has to go!

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TheMadHatter 2 weeks, 6 days ago

You will get no recall bill and no freedom of info bill out of this govt

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themessenger 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Every time I think my fellow Bahamians can't surprise me again they do. All the haters piling on Symonette as if he was the only wealthy man in the country and only his children had the privilege of private schooling. Comments about his holding political office because of his whiteness from supposedly "educated" people like Reality Check further emphasized the level of bigotry still alive in our society. Listening to the Juan McCartney show brought home just how dumb some Bahamians really are as it was plain that many who called in didn't know the difference between Dominica and the Dominican Republic. They also conveniently forgot the gift of $100,000 given to us by Dominica after the last hurricanes which is a large amount of money for such a small country, The Bahamas has to have the biggest population of illiterates, hypocrites and ingrates in the region.

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OldFort2012 2 weeks, 6 days ago

The product of generations of negative selection (anyone with 3 brain cells emigrates to a better job) and a D- schooling system. We are the intellectual equivalents of the gene pool in Marsh Harbour.

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Emac 2 weeks, 6 days ago

The ability to differentiate Dominica and Dominican republic has nothing to do with this matter. Please don't muddy the issue here. Don't make this a black and white issue either. We are talking about Brent Symonette, whose ministerial portfolio includes immigration. As someone who voted for the FNM for the past 5 elections, I am objective enough to state that Brent Symonette is out of touch with the common Bahamian, who doesn't have access to basic public services such as education and health, due to our public system being saturated with unregulated illegal migrants. Speaking of Juan McCartney, even he agrees that our society is overwhelmed by illegal Haitians, who offer nothing in return for our generosity. I don't believe that Bahamians are against allowing foreign children to have access to free education, What we are against is allowing the system to be abused by people who have no interest in making any meaningful contributions in the Bahamas, while WE pay the taxes for their children to obtain these free services! We believe that it is our right to demand accountability and policies from this government that will regulate these foreign students who WE pay taxes for.

If you feel so strongly about supporting the foreign students who are affected by this matter, why don't you open your houses and or sponsor them so that they can obtain some form of education. Cause you seem to have the "holier that thou" complex. Futher, what is laughable is how you and other apologists conveniently use the word "bigot" to support your argument, when you yourself use to it in the same context to denigrate those who oppose your point of view. Stupid.. LOL

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themessenger 2 weeks, 6 days ago

As a matter of fact Emac, many of us with so called "holier that thou" complex have in the past indeed opened our homes to foreign students through worthy programs such as the Rotary Student exchange program which benefits Bahamian students equally by giving them much needed exposure to more civilized societies. If you think Symonette is the only one of our politicians out of touch with common Bahamians you are deluding yourself,you and Fred Mitchell would make good room mates.

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Emac 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Again you are clouding the issue. I guess you are only reading what you wanna read. Once again... Let me slow it down for you... THE ISSUE HERE INVOLVES BRENT SYMONETTE. HE is the one who is reversing this policy. Therefore, HE is the one who is out of touch with Joe public. Let's save discussions about the other politician for another time.

Since you are bringing up Fred Mitchell, who I think is delusional, I have to ask the question-Have you slept in the same room with with him before??? Cause it seems like you are speaking from experience...LMAO

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Cas0072 2 weeks, 6 days ago

I am also surprised. They say only black people play the race card. Brent Symonette comes across as out of touch with the masses because of his very own statements and actions. When he re-emerged to the front to "speak out" on behalf of illegal immigrant children, he let it be known that his circle was not pleased with the new process. That alone is an elitist term. When he got into office, among his first reported activities was to sign off on a box of work permits for low level jobs. I am sure it is not the underpaid and unemployed masses that requested and paid for those work permits. He admitted bypassing an established process to get this done. And even with his latest action, not a word to concerned Bahamians about what alternative actions will be taken to crack down on illegal immigration. The only time he addresses illegal migration is to say what can't be done or to take executive action. These are just a few recent examples.

The majority of people complaining about the children and refugees from Dominica are those of Haitian descent and supporters of illegal immigration. Their argument is that children that were born and raised here are being denied an education and yet the government is taking on others.

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Cas0072 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Alot of black politicians are out of touch as well and they also make it abundantly clear. It was really condescending of Jeff Lloyd to essentially tell people to completely disregard their observations and perceptions and just grow up.

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Socrates 2 weeks, 6 days ago

whatever our international obligations, if any, or sense of christian responsibility, we cannot afford it because we are broke. therefore they should ask for UN aid to educate these refugee children.. otherwise, follow donald 'mentally deranged' trump and deport these children to the home country of the parents...

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 weeks, 6 days ago

If Haiti refuses to accept our deportation of illegal Haitian immigrants (including their children born in the Bahamas) then we should cease all diplomatic relations with Haiti and request that their embassy personnel immediately leave the Bahamas. At the same time, our Ministry of Immigration should give 6 months notice to Haiti that the Bahamas will be revoking all work permits held by Haitian nationals and will begin rounding up for detention all Haitians who will then have no right to reside in our country, if they themselves or the Haitian government have not made arrangements for their repatriation back to Haiti. As for preventing future illegal immigrants from Haiti, The Central Bank of The Bahamas, in concert with our Ministry of Finance, should order all banks and other financial institutions operating in the Bahamas (as well as the gaming web shops) to immediately cease all currency transactions and international money transfers to financial institutions in Haiti and South Florida involving Haitian nationals unless prior written consent is received directly from The Central Bank of The Bahamas. Bahamas Immigration officials at all ports of departure (land and sea) for travel to Haiti and South Florida destinations should be instructed to undertake a rigorous search of all Haitian passengers and suspected non-Haitian currency mules for cold cash in currencies other than the Bahamian dollar being illegally carried out of the Bahamas for the benefit of illegal Haitian immigrants and their family members back in Haiti. Introducing these harsh but necessary measures would put an end to our Haitian illegal immigrant problem and help build our foreign currency reserves. It is high time we get truly serious about protecting our sovereignty, cultural identity and economy from the ravaging effects of unchecked Haitian illegal immigrants. If we are to survive as a nation, we must do whatever we can to fight the scourge of illegal immigration that has for decades now been eating us alive from within like a deadly cancer. As heartless as it may sound, we must turn a deaf ear to the many sob stories pushed to us time and time again by those who do not have the interest of lower income Bahamians at heart, and this includes the Haitian government itself. These are the types of actions Brent Symonette and his fellow cabinet ministers should be considering as a matter of great urgency.

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sheeprunner12 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Do any of you who comment on this blog have any idea of the realities in the public schools?????? ........ I am amazed at the complete ignorance of those realities If Symonette wants to bring Dominicans here to go to private schools .... well that says it all about what is the social reality of education.

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stillwaters 2 weeks, 4 days ago

So the government tries to regularize entrance into government schools, but it won't work if people keep making exceptions based on emotions. We need to be serious about the policies that will make this country work and not start throwing out policies just because they cause some difficulty to certain people.

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