Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
IMMIGRATION Minister Elsworth Johnson said yesterday the government has done nothing wrong regarding its handling of illegal migrants seeking refuge in the country.
Instead, he insisted, government has abided by the laws of the country.
Mr Johnson was defending government officials’ recent trip to a shanty town in Abaco. He said the trip was not intended to round up illegal immigrants, but to meet with the Abaco Chamber of Commerce.
The government has said undocumented migrant storm victims are not protected from deportation, prompting an outcry from local and international human rights groups.
“We have to follow the rule of law,” the minister said as a guest on Guardian Radio’s The Revolution with host Juan McCartney.
He also said: “I want to say to persons, sometimes we don’t come checking for you in that light (for raids). We come checking that we can get the entire society up and running for people to return, for commerce to return, for financial services to return.
“For a government and a country dependent on Abaco and Freeport for them not to return to, not to normal, but to be better than what they were before and so that’s one of the things I want to highlight to persons when they see me move through.
“When we went down, we went to see the persons from the Chamber of Commerce.”
He was asked pointedly if the trip was set up so officials could ask for identification and fingerprint non-nationals.
To that, he replied: “I would say if that is required we would do that and to be quite honest we went to see officers who were living there. We had to take them out and send in another crew so when we moved about, yes, we were checking for identification, yes, we did check some status, but could we take them into custody?
“Some of the conversations were ‘How are you? Where is your parent?’
“The paper saying ‘oh they gone down there to pick them up’ but if we decide to go and pick up we are ensuring that we follow the laws of a democratic and sovereign country.”
Mr Johnson said Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis invited the International Organisation for Migration to monitor the Bahamas’ immigration practices, adding “so we haven’t done anything wrong.”