IMMIGRATION and work permits have been thrown again into the spotlight – not least by the arrival of more than 100 Mexican workers bound for employment at Baker’s Bay, and the concern from the public over whether those were jobs that could have been done by Bahamians instead.
Today, we report on claims that undocumented migrants are employed in Abaco, amid worries over the reconstruction of shanty towns there.
Let’s be frank – we’d be surprised if there weren’t undocumented migrants employed in Abaco. We know there are plenty here in New Providence.
In yesterday’s Tribune, Minister of Works Desmond Bannister said that Bahamians should not hire undocumented migrants as he talked about the process of clearing those shanty towns.
“You have to ask yourself, where are these illegal residents working, what jobs are they going to, who’s hiring them? How do they have money to do these things?”
There’s little mystery to it. After all, for all the talk about shutting down shanty towns how often do you see an employer penalised for doing the hiring?
It’s easy to point the finger of blame at the migrants themselves, but where is the action to clamp down on those who employed them? Where are the heavy penalties for hiring people who don’t have the right documentation? People go where the work is – if the work isn’t there, they’ll go elsewhere. Shut off the tap and people will stop coming to it.
Here’s the thing, though – our society needs those workers. Whether you agree with the decision to give Baker’s Bay those work permits for Mexican contractors or not, the resort had work that needed to be done, and a shortage of people to do it.
Abaco’s Chamber of Commerce chief, Ken Hutton, this week warned that the island is struggling to find workers, with a lack of qualified contractors and skilled trades persons.
How many New Providence residents are willing to up sticks and move to one of the islands for a prolonged period of time to do the work that is needed to rebuild after Hurricane Dorian? That’s not counting the less skilled jobs where employers are hiring undocumented migrants because it’s cheaper and they don’t have to pay for the relocation of staff from elsewhere.
There are many more facets to this debate – such as the lack of training or education to ensure we have a workforce already equipped for some of these areas, but at the root of it is that if some people offer money, others will take it. Those people then need somewhere to live, and so we come back to the shanty towns that are again springing up.
You can knock down a shack but the person inside will need somewhere else to live and you can bet that before long another shack will appear.
We should think carefully about this situation– after all, if we need the services of people and they are contributing a role in the workforce, should we not be considering bringing them out of the fringes of our society? If some are rebuilding our nation, should they be given a place in it?
One thing is certain. Tackling just one part of this problem is a surefire way to ensure that we won’t solve this problem at all.
Policing the beaches
Police Commissioner Paul Rolle expects “people to stay home” and off the beaches this Independence weekend.
Well, he’s just doing his job. It’s the Prime Minister who has given the order, it would be unusual indeed for the police chief not to enforce it.
The move to shut the beaches again has brought widespread criticism. It seems odd indeed to say it’s too dangerous to open the beaches, but it’s safe to open the country. It’s the visitors from places such as the US that could bring the virus – according to medics here, there is no community transmission going on right now.
Commissioner Rolle sees the side benefits for his job, saying that if “a sidebar of that is to help crime then sure but I don’t know if that’s the purpose of it”.
Let’s focus on the “I don’t know” there a moment, because that’s part of the trouble. Even some of those backing the PM’s decision have admitted the government is having a problem with its communications over this. So it’s not surprising that the commissioner and many of the rest of us “don’t know” what the purpose of these actions are.
Dr Minnis himself has merely indicated problems in the US as the reason for shutting the beaches, yet he’s the one who opened the country again to people from those locations.
Why is it not safe to visit a beach this coming weekend when it was apparently safe to do so last weekend? There have been no more cases of COVID-19 announced. It should not be too much to expect answers from the government as to why particular liberties should be curbed. Indeed, the current approach just hands talking points to the Opposition, who will be gleeful at the lack of communication.
All that said, we hope people respect the law and don’t cause issues for the police this weekend. They have enough to handle as it is. That doesn’t diminish the need for the government to be more forthcoming, however. They should be – and without delay.