PRIME Minister Hubert Minnis.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said there have been many complaints about illegal immigration in Andros and vowed yesterday to clamp down on the problem in a humane manner.
His comments to The Tribune came as the Department of Immigration continues a joint operation on the island.
The department said in a statement on Saturday: “In direct response to recent complaints of increased sightings of suspected illegal migrants on the island of Andros, a mass joint exercise dubbed ‘Operation Chickcharney’ was launched Saturday morning. This exercise involved the combined effort of senior immigration officers, Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers and Royal Bahamas Police Force officers.
“The purpose of the operation was to investigate and where necessary take the necessary action against any illegal migrant found, regardless of one’s ethnicity. We have reaped some success, as we continue our operations.”
Yesterday, Immigration Director Clarence Russell said the operation is ongoing, with several people in custody assisting authorities and the HMBS Lawrence Major anchored off Andros as the base of operations and transport vessel. Joint teams have more than 50 officers blanketing the districts, he said.
Strong rhetoric against illegal immigration has been a feature of Dr Minnis’ tenure as prime minister.
Yesterday he again sounded a warning to Bahamians, saying: “If they are caught harbouring illegals they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of our laws. “We will be dealing aggressively with illegals within our borders. However, they will receive respect and be treated in a humane manner within the confines of our laws. There have been a lot of complaints coming out of Andros and some other areas and we will be looking into all of them.”
Andros has become central as the government seeks to lift a Supreme Court injunction blocking the demolition of shanty towns around the country and address immigration issues related to their existence.
Former Chief Councillor Peter Douglas, 60, claimed recently in an affidavit that there are 900 people living in three shanty towns across North Andros.
And in a recent statement about the discovery of E coli in water on the island, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries said it was examining whether Norther Andros’ groundwater was contaminated by nearby unregulated communities.
“...A discussion ensued as to the possible source of well water contamination which was suggested to be as a result of unregulated development (lack of bathroom facilities attached to structures not approved for construction),” its statement said.
“The Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resource has been actively working to determine whether any agricultural crown land has been encroached upon by the migrant community of North Andros or Bahamians and will do everything under the law to ensure that if such encroachment has occurred, it is brought to an end. Furthermore, the use of crown land is strictly for agricultural purposes by those who are registered to lease the land and thus, have no right to sublease to any individual or group of persons.”