NEVER mind what other people are saying, the Bahamas government is going to do things its own way.
Never mind local activists, international agencies or even the United Nations, the Bahamas government must be right. Mustn’t it?
Sure, its tough line on immigration and shanty towns has stirred concerns from the likes of Rights Bahamas and Fred Smith, QC. The sight of Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis kicking a shanty town door down raised the worries of the Bahamas Christian Council. And sure, migrants who had just lost their jobs – along with everything else in their lives after Hurricane Dorian - might have been ordered by Attorney General Carl Bethel to leave the country. But the government persists in believing it is right and above criticism.
So when the United Nations called on The Bahamas to halt deportations of Haitians and other undocumented migrants over a lack of individual assessments and guarantees of due process – which people are entitled to under international law – Carl Bethel came out blazing, saying it was unfortunate the UN applied standards to The Bahamas that were not enforced in their own countries. It’s a good job Mr Bethel doesn’t have a job in the diplomatic corps.
Indeed, he goes on to claim that the UN should not prejudge an issue “based on something that they would’ve heard… from some social activist group”.
Call us sceptical, but we doubt the UN issues a statement urging caution based on every complaint off Facebook. Mr Bethel is seeking to minimise the nature of the concern. What the UN acts upon is evidence – and statements from activists forms part of that.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has now responded, saying that the decision to resume the implementation of immigration laws was a “painstaking, conscientious, but necessary” one following “careful analysis”. That is indeed excellent to hear – not least of all because it must mean there is considerable documentation relating to that decision that we would encourage the government to publish in full to demonstrate their reasoning. In fact, we would insist – it’s not enough just to say they thought hard about it, show us the communications that led to the reversal of the decision on deportations.
For example, the government says that contrary to what has been alleged by the UN, they have received no reports of people leaving shelters for fear of arrest. That’s one of those statements that sounds good until you think about it. How many people leaving shelters would stop by the government desk on the way out and say oh, by the way, I’m leaving before you arrest me?
“Our immigration officers do not deport persons willy-nilly,” insists Mr Bethel. We must assume then that all is well. That there really was no problem over Jean Rony Jean-Charles’ deportation from The Bahamas. That there was nothing wrong with the incident in July that saw the house of Rights Bahamas chairperson Mona Agenor raided. That in fact the government has rushed to put in place the protective measures demanded for Rights Bahamas activists by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights two years ago. That Kenyan Douglas Ngumi was perfectly well treated when he was illegally detained for six years and seven months at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
There is a trust deficit when it comes to how matters of immigration are often handled, so it can be of little surprise that the UN pays attention when further concerns are raised. This isn’t just gossip and rumour.
But one thing is certain. We are delighted to hear that the government insists that this is a country that strictly adheres to the rule of law. We look forward to the strict application of the law when it comes to MPs making their financial disclosures. We look forward to it with regard to the tabling of audits and reports as required by law. After all, we would assume that there is not one law for one and another for MPs.