By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
As the government yesterday deported more than 100 Haitians to Port-au-Prince, activists have accused it of “spitting in the face” of the international community.
The Department of Immigration said a Bahamasair flight departed Lynden Pindling International Airport at 7.42am to Haiti with 112 Haitians, escorted by a team of law enforcement officers.
This group included 77 men, 33 women, one male infant and one female infant.
The statement read: “In spite of the issues surrounding The Bahamas Immigration Department’s firm stance in continuing its administering of the law as it relates to illegal migrants’ breach of the statute laws of our sovereign Commonwealth of The Bahamas, it remains our mandate as a law enforcement agency of this country to uphold and lawfully execute our sworn duty firmly but fairly, consistent with the rule of law both nationally and internationally, irrespective of one’s ethnicity or station in life.
“As such, we take this opportunity to urge all persons wishing to enjoy the ‘sun, sand and seas’ of our Bahama land to enter our borders lawfully or face lawful consequences. We express a special thank you to our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and we likewise express special thanks to the Haitian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its embassy representatives for approval and clearance received in advance of such repatriation exercises.”
The statement added: “While we share great empathy for such persons, particularly post Hurricane Dorian, The Bahamas remains a sovereign nation of laws which we as an agency are obligated to enforce without fear; favour; malice; or ill will, in a humane but effective manner having great regard for the rule of law. We wish them a safe and well flight.”
The Department of Immigration also repatriated earlier this week an American man, four Haitian men and three Haitian women, and four Nigerian men. Two Bangladeshi men were sent back to Bangladesh, one woman was sent back to South Africa and one Haitian man back to Brazil.
In response, activist group Rights Bahamas said the government of The Bahamas has decided to again spit in the face of the international community, even as it continues to break the country’s own laws.
The statement read: “In defiance of a request from the United Nations to stop deporting victims of Hurricane Dorian, and in the face of an assertion by the International Organisation for Migration that those already expelled are now traumatised and unable to make a living in Haiti, the Immigration Department has announced that a further deportation exercise has been carried out.
“As usual, the department is at great pains to emphasise its respect for the rule of law, yet it is difficult to see this as anything but a joke when their methods of rounding up and detaining people have been repeatedly shot down as illegal by the courts. And, to the extent that, by the Department’s own admission, two Haitian children, one an infant, were among those deported, it is highly probable that these children were born in The Bahamas and have therefore been denied their right to be registered as citizens in accordance with the Constitution.”
The statement added: “This is the very definition of illegal behaviour by a department of government. The Minnis administration’s continued refusal to rein in this rogue agency is being denounced by international organisations. The prime minister’s continued threats and verbal attacks on vulnerable migrants is being scrutinised by the global press. In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, the eyes of the world are on The Bahamas; the disgraceful manner in which we are conducting ourselves will end up as an enormous mark of shame on the country’s record for many years to come.”
The Tribune’s attempts to reach Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson for comment on where the migrants were detained were unsuccessful up to press time.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said undocumented immigrants will be banned from Abaco’s Family Relief Centre.
He was responding to a reporter who asked how the government will determine who occupies the domes.
“Those will be individuals who have been displaced, but there will be no illegals in the domes, full stop, no illegals,” he said. During a press conference at his office yesterday, he noted the centre near Spring City will house 125 to 250 domes that can accommodate up to five people. The remaining 125 domes will be in the Spring City and Central Pines sub-divisions with the first shipment of 40 domes scheduled to arrive mid-November.