By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel yesterday described Rights Bahamas’ application to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) as “ill-founded and irrational”, adding all the previous issues spotlighted at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre have been remedied.
Earlier this month, Rights Bahamas, a human rights group, announced it will go back before the IACHR in May to bring reports of abuses against migrants to international attention.
Mr Bethel was asked about this hearing yesterday on the sidelines of a money-laundering forum at the Hilton hotel.
“Yes, that’s correct,” Mr Bethel told reporters about the May 10 hearing. “The Bahamas will be fully represented there. We will have a legal team and our minister of state will be there to show the political commitment.
“The Bahamas is in this instance faced with an ill-founded and irrational application for thematic review, the general review of immigration law, policies, et cetera.”
Mr Bethel went on to list some of the improvements the Detention Centre has made in the last five years.
“I think it was in 2014 we were subjected to a similar exercise. All of the defects that were identified in terms of the Detention Centre have long been corrected, they were corrected right up until earlier this year. We’ve brought in a lot of safety measures, safe houses were developed, a clinic has been set up at the Detention Centre, and we have made incredible improvements.
“The bedding has been changed so that no longer can items in the bedding be forged into weapons, it’s all done properly. There are cooling units in the various dormitories, there’s a segregation of the sexes, children and their mothers are separated from the general population.
“So there have been vast improvements in the quality of the services, if you will, extended to immigrant populations at the Detention Centre.”
However, Mr Bethel noted the Detention Centre’s major issue is “not the main interest” of the activist group.
“The biggest problem that we face in terms of the Detention Centre is not the main interest of Rights Bahamas - it is a lot of persons who have lost their passports or who are in states we can’t have relations with because of international restrictions. And so you would find that those are mainly the long-term residents of the Detention Centre,” Mr Bethel said.
“Certainly all the protocols are followed when there’s any suggestion of human or of sex trafficking or of anything of that nature. So we are confident that the Bahamas will do very well in this review. And we will continue to live up to our international obligations.”
The hearing will take place in Kingston, Jamaica.
It will be the second time Rights Bahamas, in a joint request with the Washington-based Robert F Kennedy Human Rights, is granted a hearing before the independent human rights arm of the Organisation of American States.
In a statement released earlier this month, Rights Bahamas said its request “calls for an examination of the treatment of migrants in the Bahamas in light of the many reports of human rights abuses, illegal detention and deportation exercises, the implementation of racist and xenophobic policies, the targeting of persons of Haitian descent born in the Bahamas, denial of the right to school to children of migrants and the ongoing inhumane and unsanitary conditions at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
“Also under scrutiny will be the government’s plan to forcibly and illegally evict residents and demolish homes in communities of predominantly Haitian descent,” the statement added.
The group added a special emphasis was placed on the November 2014 policy and admissions by the government that it had deported at least five people to Haiti who were born in the Bahamas and had a constitutional right to apply for citizenship.
Rights Bahamas, formerly the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association, had an audience before IACHR in Washington, DC in 2015 on matters concerning raids, deportations and the related due process; and allegations of physical and verbal abuse, among other issues.
Government representatives also attended the hearing and called the allegations about its immigration policy—introduced by the Christie administration— “bizarre and outlandish”.