Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson.
Tribune Staff Reporter
OPERATION Sovereign Bahamas met with Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson to discuss concerns on Wednesday after their protest last Friday in front of the Haitian Embassy.
Leader of the nationalist group, Adrian Francis said the meeting with Mr Johnson went well and that he was open to hearing the concerns they have about illegal immigration and they expressed their view on the government taking a more urgent approach.
“It was a very cordial meeting, it was based on information,” Mr Francis said. “He wanted to know what we were doing, our mandate, our thrust and he also wanted to share with us what the government is doing in immigration. He’s very concerned about what happening and we basically agreed on everything except the urgency in moving forward with certain immigration issues. We stressed to him the urgency of the matter, how urgent the situation really is in the country. The critical issues were citizenship and transparency, who is getting citizenship and why, persons who are changing their last name. And so, we are going to keep the pressure on the government of the Bahamas, so he is aware of who we are and what we are doing.”
Operation Sovereign Bahamas has been conducting several protests, the latest one last week Friday outside of the Haitian Embassy where the group demanded Haitian officials cooperate with the government on dealing with their citizens. They accused Haitian officials of not contributing to their citizens impacted by Hurricane Dorian.
On February 28, 2020, the group will be hosting a regional migration conference under the theme “Understanding Regional Migration – Protecting Borders” at the National Training Agency.
“Haiti has been a burden to many nations not just the Bahamas. Turks and Caicos for example they are going to have a senior representative here at the conference. We are bringing in persons from throughout the region in leadership positions from immigration. We’re bringing persons to deal with major issues including economic impact, the cultural impact, the educational impact, the social impact and the impact regional migration is having on sovereign nations. The pressure should not just be put on the Bahamas but on the region to ensure that there is some form of cohesiveness and continuity in the region when it comes to sovereignty and migration,” said Mr Francis.
While some may see his group as insensitive, Mr Francis says that successive governments have not seen the urgency of dealing with illegal immigration, causing the crisis to flourish to where it is today. As far as he is concerned, no time will ever be right to address the matter.
“We are not being harsh, in fact we are being very slow. We have been kicking this can down the road for a very long time. We are not being harsh. People are asking, ‘why would you send people back to Haiti, when there is a catastrophe going on right now?’ The reality is I am 53-years-old and from the time I’ve known myself they have always been in crisis.
“So no time is ever right. We can no longer take pills to heal the headache of Haiti. We did not elect the government of the Bahamas to take care of Haiti and to solve the problems of Haiti, we didn’t do that. We elected a government to create avenues of opportunity for the Bahamian people. At some point, the Bahamian people have to enjoy their country. This is not about hate, this is about sovereignty.”