By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
A WOMAN was allegedly raped while detained at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre, sparking an investigation into the claim by the Department of Immigration.
Given the nature of the allegation, the department and the Royal Bahamas Police Force have started to delve into what is said to have taken place, according to a high-level official yesterday.
The Tribune was told the victim, a native of Suriname, was to be deported to her home country earlier this week, but immigration officials decided against it.
They want to ensure that the matter is investigated fully and properly, The Tribune was told.
It is unclear whether the alleged perpetrator was an immigration officer or a Royal Bahamas Defence Force officer. Both agencies carry out duties at the centre.
Yesterday, Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson and Director of Immigration Clarence Russell did not respond to Tribune inquiries.
Rape allegations are not new to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
Back in 2013, it was alleged that a 24-year-old Cuban woman was raped and impregnated while at the holding facility.
However, it is not clear whatever became of the matter.
At the time, then Immigration Director William Pratt said that unless the alleged victim filed an official complaint, immigration officials would not be investigating the claim.
Mr Pratt said there was nothing his department could do because the victim had been deported to Cuba, but had not reported the alleged incident.
He added it was highly unlikely there would be any evidence to support claims after so much time had passed.
Mr Pratt said at the time: “If a rape report comes to us, we normally would turn the matter over to the Royal Bahamas Police Force immediately. There is no report that any of my officers were involved, even if it was my officers or defence force officers, once the matter is reported it would be turned over to the Royal Bahamas Police Force for investigation.
“[Immigration officers] are the administrators of the detention centre,” he also said at the time. “If a female lodged a complaint with the officer in charge, they would brief me on it and the matter would be handed over to the police. We don’t take those charges lightly.”
A member of a Florida watchdog group, The Democracy Movement, made the rape claim against a RBDF officer at a press conference in Miami.
The next year a Jamaican woman, 28, claimed she had been sexually assaulted when she was released into the custody of an immigration officer on December 15, 2014.
While a criminal case into the matter was dismissed and the immigration officer was never convicted, the woman went on to file a civil suit against the government seeking damages for alleged battery, assault, false imprisonment and the breach of her constitutional rights.
In her claim, the woman describes a crowded and filthy detention centre with menstruating females left to bleed out on the floors and with no sanitary napkins or washing facilities.
The woman has sought at least $1m in damages. That case has not yet concluded.