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Migrants’ Birth Rate Cause Of Concern

Minister of Immigration and Financial Services Brent Symonette.

Minister of Immigration and Financial Services Brent Symonette.

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

THE birth rate of immigrants living in The Bahamas is just one phenomenon driving the current overhaul of immigration laws, according to Minister of Immigration Brent Symonette, who suggested the potential number of people entitled to apply for citizenship stood to eclipse the current population.

Mr Symonette stressed the country’s immigration problem was bigger than the outcry over the undocumented status of children born to migrants as he foreshadowed critical debate on nationality laws by year’s end.

Proposed amendments to immigration laws are currently before retired Justice Anita Allen, he said.

Far-reaching changes could impact the way citizenship is accessed by people born in the country to foreign nationals; introduce the use of biometrics for birth records; establish limits on work permits; criminalise immigration fraud; or see the policy mandating everyone in the country to obtain a nationality document enshrined in law.

Mr Symonette spoke to The Tribune on present challenges following criticism levelled by US congresswoman Frederica Wilson last week.

It also follows upset stirred by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ recent comments in the wake of an earthquake in Haiti.

“When the prime minister makes comments…it’s a serious issue,” he said.

Mr Symonette added: “Check how many were in the census and then realise how many work permits. Some 24,000 applications come into this building a year and the large majority of them come from one country. I’m not trying to be prejudiced, but I’m trying to sensitise people to that. Let’s say there are 150,000 files out there. One file is at least one person, and some of them have three kids.

“Say three times 100,000,” he continued, “now you see the problem. Sometimes you may think I’m insensitive or whatever but the reality is we only have 21 miles by seven (in New Providence).”

People born in the Bahamas to non-nationals are entitled to apply for citizenship between 18 and 19-years-old. Individuals can still apply for consideration after missing this window, Mr Symonette advised, but there is no constitutional entitlement.

He lamented this feature was particularly desirous to migrant parents, some of whom resist registering their children in their home country to ensure their path to Bahamian citizenship is unfettered.

“My mother was born here, hypothetically . . . she has three kids, they have three kids, they have three kids, so that’s up to about 30 kids all deriving citizenship off that one person,” he said, providing an example. “Now in the financial services industry for instance, they (expatriates) will come for three or four or five years and then leave. But there are a lot of them that have been here for 20 years.

“So maybe the question of citizenship shouldn’t arise, maybe permanent residency.”

In his 2018/2019 budget speech, Mr Symonette stated 3,032 permits were approved from July 2017 to May.

Highlighting numbers of some of the categories, he said permanent residency approvals were granted to 2,481 people: 1,012 residency spousal permits were granted and 9,095 work visas were granted.

During that period, work visas were approved for 417 Canadians, 199 Brazilians, 128 Swiss people, 149 Colombians, 105 Cubans, 258 Dominicans, 5,064 Haitians, 1,013 Americans, 191 Guyanese, 107 French and 360 English. He said 515 visas have been approved for Chinese nationals, although this number does not include those who work at The Pointe or Baha Mar.

“This is a bigger question than just some lady who’s unfortunately sick trying to go to Miami,” he said, “and a congresswoman who’s trying to win an election.”

Mr Symonette was referring to The Tribune’s coverage of sick teen Taranique Thurston, who is currently receiving medical treatment in Florida on an emergency visa obtained with assistance from Fredericka Wilson, a South Florida representative. The teen, born in the Bahamas to a naturalized Bahamian mother, does not hold a passport, but was granted a certificate of identity in August that lists her as a Haitian national.

The present ambiguity in law is exacerbated by irregular migration, according to Mr Symonette, who insisted the country would soon have to reconcile whether children born to migrants in the country illegally should be considered for citizenship.

Speaking generally, Mr Symonette continued: “If you’re here illegally and you have a child here, does that make the child legal? If the child is born here to illegal parents and we deport the parents, do we leave the child here? These are all issues. We have to have this discussion, these are the things a lot of people don’t talk about, and they don’t want to talk about it.

“Another issue we have to discuss publicly, is do we allow the spouse of the work permit holder to be in the country?

“Do you allow the child or do we just say ‘no, you can come in but you have to stay out.’ Those are issues we have to look at. If I bring the head of BPL in, are we discriminating against one over the other? So these are the issues, it has to be a very big discussion. It affects so many people.”

“The 27 (people) I swore in (last Thursday) have the right to vote tomorrow,” Mr Symonette said, “they go straight from here to the Passport Office. But their view on this immigration policy probably might be different than yours and mine because they had to go through the hassle of getting the permit. It would be interesting to know what their position is. Because if they had children before, they are going to want those children to be ok - which is only natural, you want your world to be sorted out.”

As of May 3, 2010, there were 351,461 people resident in The Bahamas.

Residents, as defined by the 2010 report included all people regardless of their legal status, who had been living in the country for a period of six months prior to the census.

Of that figure, 17.3 percent (or 60,802) were citizens of another country and the largest group - some 39,156 people - were Haitian citizens.

Mr Symonette told The Tribune he hoped to begin town hall meetings by the end of the year.

Comments

Islandboy100 4 weeks ago

Somebody needs to go to prison for this

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 weeks ago

Right. Start with Brent Symonette who has served as a useless Minister of Immigration and Attorney General under one or more previous FNM administrations and who has known for decades about the dire problems of which he now speaks as if the proverbial light bulb has only just been turned on above his head. This arsehole Symonette has the temerity to say that immigration fraud should be criminalized. When was it ever not a crime under long standing laws of the Bahamas?! True Bahamians are now only waking up to the fact that they are indeed a minority within their country thanks to the likes of the political aspirations at any cost of Pindling, Ingraham, Christie and now Minnis. LMAO.

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bogart 4 weeks ago

Same ting erryone knows....the honey pot of free education wid officials sticking dere chests out.....an saying erry Migrant child must have a free Education...must not ask den for official status...or even ask dere parents.......ok....so now what yinna gonna do......ya mussey done give away da country...????

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sheeprunner12 4 weeks ago

We have been so free hand and free spending since 1967 ........ Now we broke, in debt and angry as hell ........... Blame the 'founding fathers' and their political spawn for this mess ......... Fix it now Brent & Minnis

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TalRussell 4 weeks ago

What further statements are done being prepared by the comrade Imperial red shirts prime minister be handed to his hard line immigration minister Theodore Brent ...... Do let me guess..... moving forward with completing the permanent resettlement the residents off Inagua Islands - for the Imperial red cabinet to convert Inagua into some kinds" migrant relocation" "anker" islands? { There's no possible good reason be making this kinds
'Bahjamaland' news up}

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TheMadHatter 4 weeks ago

Please don't say anything bad about Haitians. You will be called a racist. Just hand the keys to the country over to them and be quiet.

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BahamaPundit 4 weeks ago

We have Haitian spies in the system. People are actively trying to ensure a Haitian takeover of this nation by majority rule in ten years. Wake up! Permanent residence instead of citizenship is a no brainer. Our passivity will be our downfall. It is almost guaranteed that we will lose this country due to the negligence of our politicians on immigration. I applaud Mr. Symonett for having the BALLS to say something in this dangerously PC country.

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TalRussell 4 weeks ago

Ma Comrade BahamaPundit, couldn't you say same 'majority rule' adjustments are a reoccurring USA and Canada's - occurrences. What makes true meaning majority rule - any different over here in we colony islands Bahamajaland?

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Schemer18 4 weeks ago

We put them in power to manage the State, & they are the ones creating these problems knowing these people came to the Bahamas illegally, still they allows them to sit - breed, then to give away 400 more plus citizenship to them.

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BahamaPundit 4 weeks ago

Re TalRussel The difference is obvious. Our small population makes us a much easier Target for majority takeover than US or Canada. Our black Bahamian population also makes it easier for Haitians to go unnoticed. If Haitians were green instead of black, you would run in fear to see how many are here.

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TalRussell 4 weeks ago

Ma Comrade BP, allow me challenge your how much the reds have altered your recall abilities?
Don't you too not be wanting take issue with hypocrisy a governing party now enjoying their fourth crack at governing - when they does be talkin likes they just since 10 May 2017 came discover there is a real Bahamajaland immigration issue needing be addressed.
Have you totally erased photo all unprocessed work permits, residency and citizenship files stacked ceiling high on floor immigration minster's Theodore Brent's office that he vowed just blanket sign approvals on all the many thousands applications.... so make ups your mind which is real media face Theodore Brent are you seeing in action now?
In meantime, do name just one red shirts financial contributor's business whose work premises has ever been raided for illegal workers - ever during into their 20th year governing?

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bogart 4 weeks ago

WATCH DA NEXT PLAY NOW ....AN....AN....AN.....SEE HOW ERRY ASPIRING POLITICIAN .....STARTS LEARNING....TALKING CREOLE........NOW.....

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JackArawak 4 weeks ago

40 years too late for concern over birth rates - The Bahamas has a huge population of Creole speaking inhabitants who often hold the nation and culture of Haiti very near and dear to their hearts. It will always be this way. No political posturing or policies will change that. Get used to it.

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TheMadHatter 4 weeks ago

Bogart...we already got one. The one in charge of transport...LOL. What a strange office to assign him to, by the way.

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ohdrap4 4 weeks ago

despite the merits, or demerits of all these questions, there is no question about granting citizenship to the children of one bahamian parent only.

the spousal permit is mentioned almost begrudgingly.

perhaps if the children of a bahamian woman married to a foreigner and those of the unmarried bahamian man who mated with a foreigner were given a sure path to citizenship then those born to the migrants would not outnumber them.

Remember, if the bahamians continue to interbreed, they might also become extinct through increased rates of cancer and other diseases.

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BahamaPundit 4 weeks ago

The real issue here is failure to integrate. The Haitians I have met do not seem to have any love for The Bahamas or Bahamians. They still speak Creole and wave their flag. This is the real problem. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

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BahamaPundit 4 weeks ago

There is an easy solution that should help: stop allowing Haitians to send funds back to Haiti. Haitian Bahamiand work here and send funds out of the Bahamas to Haitians in Haiti that use the money to pay a smuggler to bring them here. It's a viscious cycle, similar to China sucking money out of the US to build weapons against the US.

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sheeprunner12 4 weeks ago

Thats at least $100 million per year ........... smh

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DDK 4 weeks ago

Sensible solution. Question is, why had it not been addressed? I guess we must follow the money trail to see who owns the money companies that profit hugely by the fees charged for sending gazillions of B$ out of our country.

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Dawes 4 weeks ago

Whilst i am sure this is an issue, why are their no figures to go with this headline. How many babies are born a year in the Bahamas? of this amount how many are to non-Bahamians? Once this is known we can see the scale of the problem. I would guess they don't actually know as i just looked for birth details for Bahamas and was unable to find anything that seemed correct. Does anyone know?

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bogart 4 weeks ago

Erry country in this region ....moreso in Haiti which has gone through so much turmoil.....has in its manifest destiny.....the need to survive....TERRITORIAL IMPERATIVES.....Haiti cannot survive with its dwindling resources....inability to govern...12 million population....AND dependence from its overseas population to provide repatriaten foreign earned funds ......SIMPLY PUT AND NOONE CAN REALLY BLAME THEM .....for the inescapable need to RECOLONIZE other territory....to survive...,,...cannot fault them for using all Bahamian means to do so.....especially if legally or illegally assisted by Bahamians themselves.....!!!!...

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TheMadHatter 4 weeks ago

Bogart, you are right. It is not the Haitians' faults. It is the fault of every single Bahamian who gives them a red cent.

If you went to Haiti and were unable to earn one dollar to buy food, you would soon come back home and see if aunt Loretta had an extra hot dog in the fridge to give you.

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sheeprunner12 4 weeks ago

So true ............ corrupt politicians and PEPs ......... and greedy, selfish Bahamians looking for cheap labour are to blame

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bogart 4 weeks ago

Notices the Minister saying 21 miles by 7 miles like New Providence....but isnt it more like 18.8 miles by 7 miles .........?????

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ohdrap4 4 weeks ago

you forgot the miles nygard added.

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geostorm 4 weeks ago

If we don't change these laws, we will suffer the consequences. Please Bahamians, wake up and stop being so passive. We will be overran in no time, and by people who do not necessarily add value to our society. For the most part they are takers! They take advantage of everything we are supposed to be offering to the Bahamian citizenry. It's not right!

I agree with Mr. Symonette. It's time to revisit the laws. Children born to illegal immigrants should in NO way be entitled to citizenship. That's the way its done all over Europe. The United States and Canada are among the last two countries in the world that grant citizenship automatically and we see the dilemma that they are now faced with. If I, as a Bahamian, was to go to a country in the European Union illegally and decide to have a child, my child will NOT be entitled to citizenship. That is the way it should be in the Bahamas as well.

I do support citizenship for legal immigrants, they can apply at the age of 18. I also believe that if the child has one Bahamian parent and can prove the parentage via DNA, then, they should be entitled to automatic citizenship. We need to control our citizenship! You do not want to be taken over by another country's citizenry who may not share the same values as ours.

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BahamaPundit 4 weeks ago

The heart of this matter is that for 40 plus years the black majority rule Government has given a free pass to black Haitians to emigrate to the Bahamas, because they were not considered a threat to majority rule by black Bahamians and enabled black Bahamians to continue their reign of stealing millions each year out of the government treasury. Had the illegal immigrants been white or light skinned, the black Bahamian government would have cracked down years ago and made it impossible for Haitians to gain citizenship and vote. The ultimate fear of our black Bahamian government is that a white majority and government would once again rule this country and put an end to 40 plus years of black power! As with most things in life, if you want the answer, follow the money.

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SP 4 weeks ago

The Dominican Republic already resolved the Haitian migrant issue by expelling ALL Haitians back to a certain date.

The Bahamas simply needs to deport ALL Haitians that came here illegally after 1973 along with ALL of their descendants. AND revoke citizenships for ALL Haitians because according to Haitian law they cannot Constitutionally renounce Haitian citizenship and according to Bahamian law they cannot Constitutionally qualify for citizenship without renouncing Haitian citizenship. We the grant any Haitians here legally residency permits with rights to work PERIOD.

That would resolve this vexing Haitian issue once and for all!

Pindling, Ingraham, and Christie should be charged with treason for encouraging "their Haitian people" to invade our country!!!

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BONEFISH 4 weeks ago

A country of ostriches. These problems should been addressed from the days of Sir Lynden Pindling. All bahamians do is talk and pretend that these problems will go away on their own. They just get bigger and more difficult to solve.

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VDSheep 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Allocate a lottery for only 400 persons yearly ‘ to become citizen - from that group

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