IMMIGRATION Director Clarence Russell said yesterday that no one affected by Hurricane Dorian has come forward seeking to have destroyed documents replaced.
After the category five storm last year, there were many reports of people losing key documents, especially those in informal settlements in Abaco.
However, during a press conference yesterday, Mr Russell said no one has come forward with official claims of this.
“During the post-Dorian period,” he said, “everyone who would’ve fallen under our voice and would’ve listened to our minister during his presentations, he indicated very clearly, the government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas’ position was, any individual who had lost, misplaced or had their documents destroyed was quite privileged to come into the Immigration Department and seek to have those documents restored, free of charge.
“Suffice it to say, to date, though we extended that privilege, we have had no one come in to suggest that their documents were lost, misplaced.
“I would say to you, ladies and gentlemen, that in my personal experience, documents of that sort are very cherished by persons who are of a foreign ethnicity and very rarely would you find that their documents are lost so I’m proud to say having served in (the) Passport (Office) as well and Immigration that to date though our doors have been open to all and sundry, we’ve had absolutely no reports of persons who required that free privilege but it has been made available and remains available.”
Mr Russell also revealed that despite COVID-19, 829 people have been deported from the country this year. Last year his department facilitated the deportation of 2,664 people.
“We are very active in the community in spite of COVID-19 but not as before,” he said. “I think you know the Defence Force has tightened the border control and so we’ve had very few, to the best of my knowledge, landings.”
Mr Russell said the Detention Centre, which has capacity for 350 people, currently has 65 people in custody, including 24 Cubans set to be repatriated next week, 15 Haitians, six Cameroonians, four Nigerians, and one person each from the following countries: China, Gambia, Sierra Leone, the United States of America, Kazakhstan, Guyana, Romania, Suriname, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Turkey and Columbia.
Mr Russell further revealed that to date, 70 immigration officers have been in quarantine because of COVID-19, with 11 currently quarantined. He said a significant number of officers have tested positive for the virus, though he declined to say how many.
For his part, Financial Services and Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson said his ministry is actively pursuing ways to improve its operations for a wide range of services.
He said one key plank of the Department of Immigration is full implementation of cashless transactions.
“The benefits of this system include improved efficiency, resulting in shorter wait times, and reduced opportunities for corruption due to transactions being traceable, leaving no room for secret deals or theft,” he said. “This is a part of our zero-tolerance policy for corruption. The cashless platform was soft launched for public testing at the beginning of this month and became fully operational this week.