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Insight – Arrest, Detention And Deportation Has Not Worked For 70 Years. It’S Time To Stop The Insanity And Try Something Else

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Attorney Fred Smith QC

By Frederick Smith, QC

Haitians aren’t coming to take over. Those born in The Bahamas of Haitian parents, our Citizens in Waiting, are not either. They aren’t conspiring to steal our jobs, destroy our public services, or breed us out of existence. They do not want to make The Bahamas a colony of Haiti.

Bahamians have heard such paranoid fables all of our lives. But 50, 60, 70 years later, it still hasn’t happened. What’s more, there isn’t any any evidence to suggest it ever will. People talk about ‘illegal’ Haitians overwhelming our education and healthcare systems, but not a single shred of evidence, no survey or social impact study, has ever been produced showing this to be true.

In fact, what evidence does exist suggests quite the opposite. A 2005 International Organisation for Migration report found that only 8.8 per cent of all school children in public schools were Haitian, and that Haitians constituted just over 11 per cent of hospital admissions in 2001. And while the data may be a bit dated, Bahamians were already screaming 40 years ago that the country was overrun by Haitian migrants.

Then there is the Shanty Town Task Force Report, produced just last year, which showed that only six percent of the people living in these communities has any issue with their immigration status. Hardly an epidemic.

Better jobs for Bahamians

Meanwhile, abundant research has shown that far from being a drain on the economy, unskilled migrant workers actually provide a huge boost to national productivity and growth. When allowed to make money, they buy goods at local businesses, pay to use local services, and contribute taxes like duty, VAT and National Insurance into the treasury which can be used to improve healthcare, education and other public services.

Rather than taking away jobs, unskilled migrant workers actually create more, better paying jobs for locals. This is not rocket science - the greater the number of individuals earning money in a society, the more money gets spent, to the benefit of small and medium businesses primarily. And, the more money that flows into each of these businesses, the more they can expand and hire new people.

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Haitian migrants boarding a bus to be transported to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre. Photo: Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Rolle/RBDF

Generally speaking, Bahamians do not want to work as farmers, gardeners or housekeepers. We want high paying, highly skilled jobs that carry the chance of regular promotion. And it is precisely the low paid migrant labourer who frees up funds for the employer to create more positions of responsibility. Migrants will work for less than Bahamians, so businesses owners have more cash in hand to expand.

Bahamians, who have attended formal schooling for years and spoken English from birth, have a distinct advantage over unskilled migrants when it comes to these new jobs that require decision making and communication skills. Haitians are not taking our jobs, they are making the jobs we want possible!

This dynamic is the reason why in so many advanced, successful nations, menial jobs are largely done by migrant workers while locals are able to move up the wage ladder. Why on earth would we want to tie our own people to low paying, unskilled work when there is another, better way?

Irregular migration should not be a crime

Yet Bahamian politicians refuse to let go of the stubborn, irrational mindset that all migrants and their children born in The Bahamas are criminals and therefore undeserving of an opportunity to earn money and make a better life. People do not migrate out of a desire to break another country’s laws, or because they want to take what belongs to others; they do it to flee the utter misery, appalling deprivation and terrifying violence of the place where they were born. Those born here have a right to stay and be citizens.

Not a single person leaves Haiti to face a dangerous sea voyage which they may not survive lightly. None of them did a thing to cause the circumstances they are escaping, and for many, there is no other recourse but to leave by any means possible. And children are not born presumed guilty and criminals!

The rest of the world is coming to recognise that irregular migration is a humanitarian crisis, not a crime. In 2016, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, pictured right, called for member countries to decriminalise irregular migration and regularise the status of undocumented migrants. International Organisation on Migration (IOM) Director General William Lacy Swing echoed this call, adding it was the surest way to defeat human trafficking. And December 2018, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants Felipe González Morales affirmed that: “While irregular entry and stay may constitute administrative offences, they are not crimes per se against persons, property or national security.”

In addition, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has affirmed states should: “Ensure that it is not a criminal offence to leave, enter or stay in a country irregularly, given that border crossing and the management of residence and work permits are administrative issues. Any administrative sanctions applied to irregular entry should be proportionate, necessary and reasonable, and should never include the detention of children.”

Already in Europe, the judiciary has made significant steps towards the decriminalisation of all migration in order to take full account of fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter and the ECHR and the rule of law.

Even in America, where the political argument over irregular migration continues to rage, the first open advocates for decriminalisation are beginning to appear. The idea forms part of the platform of Julián Castro, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful and has also been supported by Congressional and Senatorial candidates.

Alternatives to detention

It has been repeatedly shown detention does not deter undocumented migration. It is a continual drain on government resources. It poses a constant threat to a country’s international reputation through allegations of inhuman conditions, abuse and lengthy detention periods. It costs the public treasury in litigation. For these reasons - and due to a growing recognition that in all situations, human liberty should be the norm unless absolutely unavoidable - other countries are increasingly opting to introduce alternative solutions.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Arrest, detention and deportation has not worked for 70 years. It’s time to stop the insanity and try something else! I don’t profess to know all the answers; but I do know that what we have been doing has not worked and has been absolutely inhumanely insane. We should stop and try to find other more humane solutions.

These can be anything from ankle bracelet monitoring or release on bond with sureties from friends or family members, to more sophisticated schemes. And as far as those born in The Bahamas is concerned, we should just pass a law that makes them automatically Bahamian or simply gives them the right to work based on their birth certificate. We don’t have to amend the constitution for that.

Today there is some form of alternative to detention in more than 60 countries around the world and many are extremely successful with compliance rates well above 90 percent and voluntary participation by migrants across the board. For example:

• Spain - Open reception centres for migrants with incentives to remain registered while being processed.

• Turkey - Freedom of movement for migrants with regular reporting duties

• Chile - Temporary legal status granted to migrants with monitoring

Ending the detention of irregular migrants and the inhumane hunting of those born in The Bahamas would fit with the various international covenants which The Bahamas has signed or become party to by its membership in the United Nations, like the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.

Making a virtue out of necessity

Migration is an historical and current reality. The Bahamas can’t opt out of being a place where people migrate in and out of. Nearly everywhere in the world, migration flows have been increasing steadily for decades. According to the United Nations, more people live in a country other than their place of birth today than ever before.

Other countries have dealt with this reality by embracing the potential of these people for the benefit of society as a whole.

For example, in France in 1997 and 1998, immigrants who had been in the country for seven years or longer, or who had significant family ties in France, were granted legal status to live and work. In Spain in 2005, over 570,000 persons were regularised and given the right to work. In Italy in 2009, all migrants working as home nurses and caregivers were regularised.

Germany is currently crafting new laws to give well-integrated irregular migrants already in employment a chance to remain in the country. In the US today, 750,000 people who arrived as children now have temporary legal status under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and have renewable two-year work and residence permits.

It is inevitable people will come to The Bahamas from elsewhere, some of them in the approved manner, some of them otherwise. Some of them are just born here and we should embrace them as fellow citizens. If irregular migration should not be seen as a crime but rather an administrative challenge, and if irregular migrants should therefore enjoy freedom of movement, and if injecting these people into the workforce will create more and better opportunities for Bahamians, then what are we waiting for?

The Bahamas should allow irregular migrants to live and work here while they sort out their status issues and contribute to growing the economy to the benefit of all of us. It is the only rational, common-sense solution to the huge waste of resources created by the “capture, detain, deport” approach, with its awful implications for human rights.

If a lack of “papers” is the issue, we can simply document and register all irregular migrants. It does not have to be permanent, but at least they will all be accounted for and our society’s near pathological obsession with documentation and control will be satisfied.

Until Fred Mitchell’s pogroms began in 2014, those born here never had a problem.There will no longer be a need for the Immigration Department to go hunting Haitians or people born in The Bahamas and terrorising people left, right and centre, including Bahamian citizens who are now regularly illegally stopped, questioned, and subjected to search, seizure. We no longer have freedom of movement in The Bahamas because of this immigration obsession with “documentation”. And now, under the new Bill, it is proposed to give Immigration more Gestapo- like illegal, unconstitutional powers to demand papers of every single person - not just those who might be actually suspected of an offence. The obsession with “documentation“ is costing all of us, Bahamians especially, their freedom. Everyone is now presumed guilty until they can prove their innocence!

Migrants will be eternally grateful, and they’ll enter the low wage bracket where they can be of maximum value to our economy, doing work that is so disagreeable to Bahamians that we currently bring in Filipinos, Chinese – and yes, thousands of Haitians – on work permits to do it.

It really is insane to deport Haitians who are already in the country or or those born here while bringing people in from Haiti. It seems to be all about the piece of paper. Why not simply give those who are here the paper.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 6 months, 1 week ago

For decades now QC Smith has been lining his pockets with hefty legal fees from Amnesty International and other so called human rights organisations for, among other things, spearheading the Haitian invasion of the Bahamas. He bears great responsibility for the deterioration in the standard of living and quality of life for most Bahamians. Truly amazing that this "full of himself" scoundrel confidently and boisterously maintains that he has more intellectual power than the entire government and judiciary of the Bahamas. Sadly, he seems to be right.

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bogart 6 months, 1 week ago

EXCELLENT PROPAGANDA.....truly very well ...!!!!!....."Haitians aren't coming to take over".........hmmmmmmmm.......name one single event over da same last 70 years dey have gathered together to organize one return of volunteer Haitian returnees.to beloved Patriotic with fervent Highest pride to Haiti.....not even deceased tragic drowned ...wrapped draped coffins in Haiti flag buried in ....Bahamian soil...??????.....one volunteer return trip to Haiti..????......and net result of continuous human trafficking to Bahamas to "take over".....actually colonise the Bahamas by all available means ...forged documents..propaganda....evading laws...breeching sovereign Bahamas borders...

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yeahyasee 6 months, 1 week ago

In fact, what evidence does exist suggests quite the opposite. A 2005 International Organisation for Migration report found that only 8.8 per cent of all school children in public schools were Haitian, and that Haitians constituted just over 11 per cent of hospital admissions in 2001. And while the data may be a bit dated, Bahamians were already screaming 40 years ago that the country was overrun by Haitian migrants.

Then there is the Shanty Town Task Force Report, produced just last year, which showed that only six percent of the people living in these communities has any issue with their immigration status. Hardly an epidemic.

It's 2019.

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birdiestrachan 6 months, 1 week ago

This man is talking to people who are foolish already. he gives reports from 2001 or 2005 this is 2019.They are many young Bahamian men I know looking for work. cleaning cars or yards. So he is out of touch on this issue.

The Countries he named are large Countries, There ARE NO SHANTY TOWNS IN SMITH POINT where he resides. lots of bad dogs though. But it is fine for Folks from over the hill. to live by shanty towns.

But since he boast of his undisclosed donation to the FNM Party. The FNM Government will have to do as he says.

But rest assured Fred Mitchell is always on his mind. WHY>

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ThisIsOurs 6 months, 1 week ago

Yeah it's time to find the politicians and rich businessmen sponsoring this human smuggling opetation

The singular point this paper misses is we have a 10% unemployment rate, we have crumbling infrastructure, a ballooning national debt...we cannot support the influx of millions of migrants who WILL want access to FREE services. Paying VAT will not cover the costs. We have clear evidence of that.

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newcitizen 6 months, 1 week ago

What are you talking about, where are these millions of migrants and what FREE services are they getting?

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bahamianson 6 months, 1 week ago

Are citizens, not our citizens or hour citizens.

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TheMadHatter 6 months, 1 week ago

Im sorry folks but this is just so stupid that The Hatter is speechless.
It seems for some people that the only thing wrong with the Bahamas is that it's occupied by Bahamians. Too bad geniuses like some of these brilliant lawyers can't figure out the source of the havoc in Haiti and work on fixing the ROOT of the problem - instead of preaching to us how we need bigger vacuum cleaners to suck up other people's messes with. Insanity doesnt quite cover it.

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John 6 months, 1 week ago

Apparently this man’s insight is selfish and self serving. It doesn’t take into account the need to harness the inflow or influx of foreigners in order to preserve and to protect the indigenous Bahamian. It is reckless and dangerous to say, ‘open the gates and let them in if only because we have much land and can benefit from a population increase. Let the increase be in proportion to natural born Bahamians! Even ancient cities had immigration policies and population controls. And many cities had laws that jailed or even executed unwanted or unauthorized migrants. It is not that the country’s system of arrest, detention and deportation is failing, it is that many are more determined to come here and remain here so they are more willing to challenge the system and the laws. And this doesn’t mean The Bahamas must break down its gates and let More people in, it means The Bahamas must build stronger gates and keep more persons out!

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newcitizen 6 months, 1 week ago

What Indigenous Bahamian's John? Pretty sure all the Arawaks and Lucayans are long gone.

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John 6 months, 1 week ago

If you read my post above, it clearly identifies whom I consider an indigenous Bahamian. And, fortunately (or unfortunately) the same set of people, mostly, who are responsible the Arawaks’ demise are also responsible for 90 percent of the present Bahamians being here. These islands were virtually abandoned after the abolishment of slavery but now that the ‘new value’ has been discovered in them, everyone wants to lay claim and rights to ownership. The mass murdering of our young men over the past decade, among other things, is no coincidence,

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newcitizen 6 months, 1 week ago

John, I think you need a history lesson. Your ignorance is showing.

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John 6 months, 1 week ago

Ya think? So I guess you are a paper Bahamian trying to gain some mileage calling me ignorant. Prove ya case of refer to your fore parents likewise as ignorant!

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John 6 months, 1 week ago

White history you mean? Your racist mentality is showing. Really!

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DWW 6 months ago

got some good koolaid there huh?

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joeblow 6 months, 1 week ago

We are already overrun with Hi- shuns, but he obviously hasn't considered how many more would be here if if not for arrests, detainment and repatriation.

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Sickened 6 months, 1 week ago

OMG can you imagine! The thousands deported back over the years would have created thousands more if allowed to stay. Thankfully we are at least fighting the current!

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Junkan00 6 months, 1 week ago

It saddens me to see an intelligent and well written article, belittled by citizens of this country. The Bahamas seems to be one of the most xenophobic countries that I have ever lived in, or travelled to. There is nothing wrong with loving our country, or wishing to protect it from outside negative influences, but to be able to this through rational thought, gained through a balanced and informed education, rather than this traditional misguided bigotry. Our politicians are too frightened to admit that not only do we need low paid immigrants to do the jobs that Bahamians feel are either below them, or too lowly paid, but actually we also need some experienced expat entrepreneur, to introduce budding young Bahamians entrepreneurs of the future, to how things work in the real world, outside of the Bahamas, which is still operating in ways that the rest of the world moved on from forty years ago. We are our own worst enemies when it comes to holding this beautiful country back!

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John 6 months, 1 week ago

Regardless as to how well the article is written, it doesn’t preclude Bahamians from speaking out for the need and desire to protect their country and to preserve their rights as Bahamians. So flush that xenophobia bull crap. Quickly. And even in its impoverished state, Haiti has just as many immigration laws, controls and regulations against foreigners, illegals especially, as does The Bahamas. Don’t let the D Average fool you. And anyone who even suggests The Bahamas should open the floodgates and allow in all and sundry, if only to occupy vacant land should be considered a ‘persona non grata!’ Then dealt with accordingly. They definitely do not have this country’s best interest at heart or that of Bahamians. Why are they trying to deliver this Trojan horse to The Bahamas? Go back to Haiti and create reasons and opportunities for Haitians to not want to leave their own country in mass droves and to not have to invade countries like The Bahamas, illegally and in mass droves and also not to have to risk or lose their lives on the high seas whilst fleeing! Hit the nail on the head and not have to straighten it out after it’s bent ole boy!

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Sickened 6 months, 1 week ago

Lol! Get him John. He's no match for you.

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DWW 6 months ago

How very christian of you John. were you named after the baptist or the apostle?

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Schemer18 6 months, 1 week ago

Haiti is in poverty as we speak for an over population, & no one needs to be a QC to know it. What Bahamians are saying: They do not want anymore of these ungrateful Haitian people in our jurisdiction period. So when this man gonna get it?

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DDK 6 months, 1 week ago

"Haitians aren’t coming to take over. Those born in The Bahamas of Haitian parents, our Citizens in Waiting, are not either. They aren’t conspiring to steal our jobs, destroy our public services, or breed us out of existence. They do not want to make The Bahamas a colony of Haiti." REALLY QUITE HILARIOUS! Is he actually being facetious?

I simply do not understand why this man does not take all his convoluted good will to Haiti and run the revolution and populated explosion over there!

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sealice 6 months, 1 week ago

Unfortunately Fred you left the PLP & FNM in power for too long and now we have generations of Bahamians who can't read because of their lack of concern for basic education = We need the unskilled jobs for the "D" average bahamians so once again 40 years worth.... we got 2 many heyshuns here and we need dem gone!!!

And as usual we should adopt the methods of our sister west indies countries the Turks and Caicos and just push those bums off don't even let em land - go back from whence you came in the same way that you came....

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Economist 6 months, 1 week ago

It is interesting to note that no one mentions Bahamians failure to keep the Haitians out of The Bahamas.

Perhaps John could enlighten us as to why we Bahamians have not done our job in protecting our land? Perhaps he can explain how it is not the Bahamas Defence Force failure that the Haitians are here.

The Bahamas has, most recently spent $232 million dollars on 8 ships for the Defence Force. Add that to what we have spent over the last 45 years and you are over $1 Billion.

Maybe we should shut the Defence Force down, fire the useless defence force personnel, and us the funds to pay for all the services that the Haitians are costing us in the first place.

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joeblow 6 months, 1 week ago

... ever tried to stop water coming into a leaky boat?

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Sickened 6 months, 1 week ago

... or stop rats from fleeing a sinking ship? That's the battle we face.

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John 6 months, 1 week ago

Economist why do you have to use my name to express your narrow minded thinking and again to attack this country? Can’t you stand on your own two feet and hold your own poison pen? Even the US, with all its resources cannot keep the illegal immigrants out (or the illegal drugs that are killing thousands of Americans). And Donald Trump indicates that some 1 million illegal immigrants enter the US every day. Are you, Economists, suggesting that we line them up and execute them? Or st least be as harsh on them as they are in the Dominican Republic? You write under the name ‘Economists ‘. And one law of economics says workers will be drawn by Economic activity as consumers are drawn by lower prices. So as I have stated in previous posts on the Haitians problem : Fix Haiti and Fix the Haitians problem. Then you go take a history class and find out why they don’t want to fix Haiti.

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Economist 6 months, 1 week ago

"Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told reporters they remained committed to tackling the issue, and warned that if they did "nothing", a quarter of a million migrants would reach the US this year, according to Reuters news agency."

Hardly a million a day. Please get your facts straight.

I am suggesting that the Defence force do its job along the 80 mile part of ocean through which all the Haitians come through.

It is only in the last 20 years that the US has decided to deal with illegals. It is much easier for one to cross a 2,000 mile boarder with tunnels etc. No tunnels to The Bahamas.

Since we can't fix the Haitian economy we have to do the next best thing and that is to plug the 80 mile gap.

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concernedcitizen 6 months, 1 week ago

Two thoughts , I live on a family Island that's doing well , lots of jobs and houses being built .I drive through our capital and everyday I see and know 50 to a 100 abled body Bahamian males standing around , by the numbers house , the liquor store bumming money or begging ciggerettes..The hatian guys are on the building site or doing people yard for 80 to 100 dollars a day .And all this chatter we Bahamians been selling this country to them for 40 years ,,every politician always had 20 or more works permits for their indentured servants ,,My second thoughts the comments here give a 100% proof that the Dunning Kruger effect is real

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birdiestrachan 6 months, 1 week ago

when the illegal immigrants are realesed and while they sort out their status, The medical facilities will be over run and they will be sure to have ten children each, The man is talking foolishness but doc has to do what ever he says if they want that undisclosed donation.

I often wonder who was behind toggie and boggie. and the WE MARCH. It is my hope that one day it will all be revealed.

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bahamian242 6 months, 1 week ago

Why is it always about Haitians? Fililino Nurses come here paying $7,500.00p.a. for a work permit, and then, end up as a domestic paying $2 000.00p.a, due to better working conditions, and better pay with perks, in the gated communities, while you sit back a arugue about Haitians where by law are entitled to citizenship. And Filipino Nurse in the mean time have already been naturalized as a citizens of the Bahamas now holding 2 passports............and by law of the Constitution, where for us to have correct it, failed in the two referendums......We are Stupid people. So look at your MP's they are reflection of yourself, so the cycle continues for another 70 years........ So be it..........Tired of hearing your stuipd debates to denie a People from a country that have the entilement to obtain legal status of citizenship!!!!!! This what Fred Smith is saying......your excluding a certaint country of people. I guess they are our untouchables, like they have in India............

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