By EARYEL BOWLEG
IMMIGRATION Minister Elsworth Johnson said the government still plans to construct a new detention centre on Inagua, however it will not come in the upcoming fiscal period.
He also said the Immigration Department hopes to hire between 60-100 new recruits in the third or fourth quarter of 2020/2021 fiscal period.
During the 2020/2021 budget debate yesterday, the minister laid out the key immigration initiatives for the coming year. While a new detention centre in not on the cards in the near future, he said the future construction would give Inagua an economic boost.
“The construction of a detention centre in Inagua will serve as an economic stimulus to the island and could quite possibly serve as a temporary hurricane shelter, in hurricane season,” he said.
“Such an undertaking shall reduce expenses and risk of transporting and processing detainees from illegal landings from the south, to the benefit of all stakeholders. This item remains on our ministry’s agenda.”
Mr Johnson noted there were 133 migrants detained at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre as of June 1. Last week, 75 Haitian migrants were repatriated – leaving 58 migrants. The repatriation exercise comes after Haitians started a hunger strike earlier this month to return home.
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force reported that the matter was de-escalated by marines, but a fight broke out between two Haitians later. Some detainees then escaped their dormitories and destroyed several fences and minor infrastructure.
Mr Johnson stated the Department of Immigration has lost a number of experienced staff over three years due to retirement, resignation, or transfers and more immigration officers are needed to replace these officers.
Furthermore, officers are needed for five additional islands and locations that are currently unmanned hence the aspiration for hiring 60-100 new recruits.
He said a promotional exercise has not happened in the department for over five years, and expressed a commitment for promotions to happen as soon as possible.
“The exercise, shall be merit based, with a view to ratifying all existed in the agency, in particular for trainee immigration officers many of whom, for years now are still not confirmed in appointment,” the minister said.
He also said during the July 1, 2019 – May 2020 period, the department accumulated $57,465,076.24 in revenue – a decrease in initial projections. In the 2019/2020 fiscal period, repatriations cost the government $906,171.00, excluding the most recent exercise.