‘Enough - too many foreign workers’: Minnis warns labour permits must decrease

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff


Deputy Chief Reporter


Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said yesterday more must be done to decrease the “thousands” of work permits approved annually in the country.

Dr Minnis did not reveal the exact number, but just last month, Immigration Minister Brent Symonette told reporters he approved 500 work permits over three days for Haitian nationals.

Labour Director John Pinder also said in July over 5,000 people apply for permits every year.

Noting the volume of approvals, Dr Minnis said there is nothing wrong with other nationalities seeking employment in the Bahamas but it should be done legally.

Those who break the law, he said will be prosecuted and/or have their migrant status revoked.

“The amount of work permits that we issue today must decrease,” Dr Minnis said during remarks he made at the opening a national skills symposium at the National Training Agency on Gladstone Road.

“Statistics from the Department of Immigration confirmed that thousands of work permits are approved on an annual basis for foreign workers.

“Many of these applications are approved primarily because employers claim and provide justification that in many instances Bahamians lack the requisite skills and or certifications to fill various vacancies.”

When he was asked to explain his position on the granting of work permits, Dr Minnis said: “An individual comes to your country because they are seeking opportunities, they’re seeking job opportunities. There’s nothing wrong with that but do it legally.

“We need employees and yes we will accept them legally but if you allow illegals to continue to be employed under the radar and establish an underground economy then that has great effects on your society and they would continue to come here once there are opportunities.

Dr Minnis continued: “Therefore, as mature citizens we must respect the law and apply for them properly, there is a system and they will be dealt with fairly. So all we’re saying is we have a responsibility and if we break the law we should not only inflict the law on the illegal immigrant but we must also apply the law to those who are breaking it.

“Bahamians and others and if you are here as our guests as permanent residents and you’re breaking the law then that should be revoked.”

Asked how soon there would be convictions for these immigration-related offences, Dr Minnis said they have already begun.

“They are prosecuting, believe me they are doing that,” he said.

“If you follow the immigration department they have taking Bahamians before the courts to be prosecuted and they will become even more aggressive because the message must be loud and clear.

“We cannot have a system of catch and release catch and release. We must become involved. We must become law abiding citizens. We must apply for individuals legally and they will be dealt with properly and legally, but if we continue to break the law and the message goes out that hey Bahamas is an open society, individuals will come from all over the world.”

Mr Pinder, in July expressed a desire to review the application process of long-term work permits, telling The Tribune there should be increased stipulations to guard against abuse.

A former trade unionist, Mr Pinder stressed the need to strengthen labour policies related to work permits, telling this newspaper he had received at least 100 vacancy notices per week.

He said at the time: “The amount of NOVs (notice of vacancy) that come to my office – there are thousands of people on work permit applying for vacancies. Sure most of them are handymen or maids; we have to encourage Bahamians to take these jobs. It’s minimum wage but when you add all the benefits – the job they advertise could see someone potentially take home $20,000 annually.

“At least 100 a week,” he continued, “that’s over 5,000 people every year applying for work permit.”

He also underscored the need to strengthen NOV criteria – particularly stipulations concerning the training of Bahamians.

Sign in to comment