NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames suggested yesterday that his ministry would not brush allegations of mistreatment against Haitian migrants in the wake of Hurricane Dorian aside.
His comments to reporters came days after an international watchdog raised concerns with the repatriation of Haitian migrants to their home country and alleged abuse before they were deported at the hands of officers. Mr Dames said law enforcement agencies do not ignore complaints of this nature, but allegations will be investigated where warranted to determine if they are legitimate.
“If you have a concern or a complaint, there is a channel by which that complaint could be directed and investigated...we’ll always have concerns when there are allegations against our law enforcement officers,” Mr Dames said.
“We don’t brush any complaints aside. Anything that’s investigated, and we determine whether there is a validity or otherwise.”
In a statement released last week, the International Organisation for Migration said it has monitored the deportation of some 340 Haitian migrants from the Bahamas. And, in monitoring the issue, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Haiti Giuseppe Loprete told The Tribune that on the second and third rounds of deportation post-Hurricane Dorian, his team had interviewed 150 persons, some of whom complained about being abused.
Mr Loprete also told Eyewitness News earlier that allegations of sexual assault have been reported to Haitian authorities and the Bahamas mission.
He also alleged that migrants who were processed last week displayed signs of physical abuse.
Responding to these claims highlighted, Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson told The Tribune on Monday that officials will investigate any documented allegations of abuse towards Haitian migrants in the country.
However, Mr Johnson also noted that the government has frequently dealt with “false” accusations of abuse against migrants in the past.
“Complaints have been made where there was alleged burning of people in the Bahamas. There was a particular booklet that showed pictures that were not taken in the Bahamas with a man holding a revolver and having an attack dog attack a person. These complaints have been unfounded,” he said.
But, if a claim is credible, Mr Johnson said a process has to be followed.
Of late, various local and international entities have denounced the repatriation of Haitian migrants from the Bahamas, citing the weeks of unrest, violent protests and political turmoil that have plagued Haiti.
In fact, last month, Haitian Chargé d’Affaires Dorval Darlier said the Minnis administration should consider suspending the repatriation of migrants “because of the political situation” in Haiti.
However, the government has remained firmed in its stance on the handling of illegal migration.
The Minnis administration has said that any person found in violation of the Bahamas Immigration Act will be dealt with according to statute laws.