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‘No-One Can Tell Us What To Do’: Ministers Insist – We Control Our Borders, Not You

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

By MORGAN ADDERLEY

Tribune Staff Reporter

madderley@tribunemedia.net

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel delivered a robust defence of Bahamian sovereignty yesterday in response to a claim that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) can order the country to change its citizenship laws. 

The Bahamas was called before the IACHR in Jamaica last week in response to a petition on the treatment of migrants and their descendants from Rights Bahamas and the Washington-based group, Robert F Kennedy Human Rights. During the hearing, Margarette Macaulay, rapporteur on the Rights of Women and Persons of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination, said the body could rule that The Bahamas must amend its laws. She invited civil society to pursue legal action that could produce such an outcome. 

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Margarette Macaulay

As the Senate debated and later passed Immigration Act amendments yesterday evening, Mr Bethel denounced the idea that the country’s citizenship laws are under threat from an international court challenge. 

“There is not a country on earth that will mortgage off its right to control its own borders,” he said. “You might as well sign up to be a client state. And so the Bahamian people can rest assured that this government will fully, thoroughly, completely and comprehensively defend the sovereignty of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas against all who would challenge it and as they say in America, foreign or domestic. We will defend the sovereignty of the Bahamas and the right of the Bahamian people to chart their own destiny in matters that are fundamental to their constitution and to their constitutional expectations and protections.

“We will in due course put out a properly diplomatically worded statement to send to (to the IACHR) to indicate that we feel that they may have gone a little to far in some of the rhetoric exchanged across the table. I’m not sure if it is the appropriate actions of the commission to invite people to sue their own government. I’m not sure that’s within the remit of their duty. But let us deal with it at that level in the appropriate way. I want to assure the Bahamian people that they need not fear that this government or any government is ever going to give grounds on something as fundamental as the right to Bahamian citizenship under our constitution.”

For his part, Immigration Minister Brent Symonette said he has “difficulty” with international bodies that attempt to force sovereign states to act outside “the best interest of that country.” The Bahamas has held two referenda to address issues of gender inequality in the constitution, both rejected by the electorate.

During Friday’s hearing, the IACHR president raised concerns about detention of migrants and statelessness in the Bahamas.  

President Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño said: “I emphasise the right not to be detained because of migrant status. It cannot be due to the fact of being a migrant, there is a prohibition of that. To be a migrant is not an offence, it is not a crime and prison, detention is for crimes, violations of the law.”

She added: “There are so many stateless children who were born in the Bahamas and cannot get citizenship because they cannot provide the sufficient documentation in order to get it, and even when they’re 18 they have to apply for citizenship within a certain time or they miss the boat if they exceed that time. This is extremely difficult to accept and the commission wants to work with the Bahamas to see how we can resolve this issue.”

Mr Symonette said he will reserve full commentary until he has spoken to Minister of State for Legal Affairs Elsworth Johnson who represented the Bahamas during the hearings. 

However, he said: “I think unfortunately we have to look at the total picture in the Bahamas. I don’t think a number of persons fully appreciate the influx of illegal immigrants here in the Bahamas and the cost. So, for instance a boatload of 100 persons arrive on our shore today—are we supposed to let them walk around the street until we decide when to repatriate them? These are issues. We have 100,000 square miles of water; illegal immigration is a large problem. We spend about $1.6m a year repatriating non-Bahamians.”

On the issue of statelessness, he said:  “There are economic conditions in Haiti that require that persons leave…Did they take into consideration the fact that we had a number of persons die in Abaco recently? These are real situations that affect each and every one of us. They talked about statelessness for instance and that’s not a provision in certain areas because a person has the right to apply for citizenship.

“So stateless becomes, when you are stateless in my opinion, which is, I mean you’ve got to be careful on that tight frame. So in some countries, third generation born outside the country are stateless —fine, we can deal with that. But someone who’s born, first generation born in the Bahamas, has the right to a passport of another country. They always have that. So they are not stateless. That’s very clear. Now whether or not they want to go and get that passport is a different issue.

“So for a commission to say they’re stateless, I have a different understanding of the law than what they’re saying.”

Comments

bahamianson 6 days, 7 hours ago

So, America for the most part, gets our educated Bahamians who are able to contribute to their society positively. They have jobs, do not drain the educational system, the health system , and the social fabric of America. We on the other hand, must accept people who come here not being able to speak English, with no educational degrees, and whom totally relying on our health care system. These people have children and have to rely on Social Services . When Social services, the public educational system, and Health care System needs more money, what will happen? Where is the Tax, oops, I mean money going to come from? Now the government of the day has to make a decision. Do we increase VAT to get more money? So, people who are already Taxed, get taxed more, so others can live. Vell Muddos ! I might as well stop working and get some of this gravy train!

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Mr_Right 6 days, 5 hours ago

I have a feeling it will be some weak response. The response should be strong, make it very clear that she should know her place. Only a mentally challenged person would think the Bahamas should take on Haiti's responsibilities. Why don't they challenge the USA and France to assist the Haitians? They contributed to the conditions of Haiti today, not the Bahamas.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 6 days, 5 hours ago

Carl Bethel and the entire Minnis-led FNM cabinet still need reminding though that even our elected officials do not have the right to determine or change the eligibility criteria for the grant of Bahamian citizenship. That right is expressly reserved for the Bahamian people under our Constitution and would require constitutional amendments voted on by the Bahamian people in a national referendum. But the proposed new immigration bill seeks to usurp the right of Bahamians to determine who should be allowed to obtain Bahamian citizenship. This cannot be allowed to happen and should immediately trigger a challenge in the courts that various provsions of the bill (once enacted) are glaringly unconstitutional.

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licks2 6 days, 4 hours ago

I read that statement and concluded that the woman did not say that. . .she said that "it may have to go to the world court for adjudication". . .THE REPORTER GOOFED THE STORY. . .UN Charter 1954 or there about assures every member state that their Constitution will determine what happens is their nation. . .PERIOD!! I have been meeting with persons from those international bodies. . .some of them are as dumb as rocks. . .but this time it is the reporter who said nonsense!!

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joeblow 6 days ago

Uh, people tell us what to do all the time. That's why we have a struggling financial services sector!

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licks2 5 days, 3 hours ago

They did not do anything to us. . .we did it to ourselves when we allow their "tax dodgers" them to come here and hide their fir share of tax due to their governments! Thousands of companies registered in this country for tax hiding purposes. . .each one is just a folder in some lawyer's office, no building, no staff, no anything. . .this country makes zilch from them. . .the lawyers them get rich and the masses are not allowed to get one lil job because the company is a "shell" company! Them developing nations een do nuttin to we. . .they just told us that we can't help their tax dodgers and come to them looking for help with funds when the same money we need is being hidden from their government in our country!!

Legitimate financial services have no need to run anywhere. . .

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TheMadHatter 5 days, 23 hours ago

"During the hearing, Margarette Macaulay, rapporteur on the Rights of Women and Persons of African Descent and..." I Why not bring ALL Africans here one time? All 1.3 billion of them. They have rights; we don't. Bring them ALL and bring them NOW. Let's get this over with one time.

https://www.worldometers.info/world-p...">https://www.worldometers.info/world-p...

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killemwitdakno 5 days, 22 hours ago

I still don't see how the status in a foreign country and not the home country determines statelessness. It should be based on whether the home/parent's country nationalized them or not.

The royal baby has to pay US taxes despite being born in England. How on earth are we saying they are stateless of not being Bahamians when it's Haiti that didn't document them.

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licks2 5 days, 2 hours ago

Ya must keep in mind that some of our CARRICOM sister nation can't stand we guts. . .they think that we don't want to share our wealth with them!! They want to come here but don't want us to come there. They know that the UNHRC already told them that Haitians in the Bahamas cannot qualify for statelessness!! Further more, the Bahamas already told them that there are certain request in them accords that we will not do!

All reservations and derogation are recorded in each accord. . . only our politicians can make problems for us by listening to nonsense!

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