By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE Department of Immigration has asserted that there is “no substance” to an allegation of inappropriate conduct by a male officer against a female migrant who was detained at the department’s safe house.
In a press statement last night, the department said an investigation by its Corruption, Complaints and Intelligence Unit along with the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s Sexual Offenses Unit was concluded in the absence of the woman submitting a complaint.
The statement noted that the woman denied there was any inappropriate conduct toward her.
The woman has demanded her immediate repatriation, officials said.
However, they did not state when she would be released to return home.
“The Department of Immigration wishes to advise that it has investigated an allegation of inappropriate conduct of a male immigration officer toward a female migrant, which conduct is alleged to have occurred at a Department Safe House,” the statement said.
“The investigation, headed by the newly appointed assistant director of immigration with responsibility for corruption, complaints and intelligence assisted by officers of the Sexual Offences Unit of the Royal Bahamas Police Force have determined that there is no substance to the allegation.
“To be certain, the female migrant, the subject of the alleged inappropriate conduct, has made no complaint of, and denies the occurrence of, any inappropriate conduct. Further, the female insists on her immediate repatriation.
“The matter is closed. There shall be no further comment from the department.”
On Wednesday, The Tribune reported that a high-ranking government official confirmed there was an investigation underway into an allegation that a Surinamese woman had been allegedly raped by an officer stationed at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
The source confirmed that while the woman was to be deported this week, officials decided against it to ensure the matter was fully and properly investigated.
The next day, a sister of the woman said that she admitted in a telephone conversation of being victim of an alleged rape.
Based on that conversation, the sister, speaking on behalf of other relatives outside the country, said they were concerned about her welfare and demanded answers as to why she had been detained for several months following what was thought to be the end of a prison sentence over an immigration infraction.
The sister told this newspaper the woman from Paramaribo, Suriname had completed that term last August and it was their contention that her detainment was unlawful.
Numerous inquiries on the matter were made to officials, but they were ignored.
Yesterday, Human Rights Bahamas said attorneys who worked along with the organisation were preparing to submit an application to the court for the woman’s release.
HRB also revealed plans to report the incident to international human rights groups.
“We further call upon the authorities to justify their continued detention of the victim, as relatives allege, she has been held without legal justification for several months. If the government cannot show lawful cause for holding this individual, they must release her immediately,” HRB said in a statement to The Tribune.
“Attorneys that work with HRB are now representing the victim and are preparing to go before the courts to secure her release from custody. They intend to bring an application to that effect shortly.
“In the meantime, the authorities are warned not to seek to further harm, abuse or intimidate this victim. Any such attempt will be exposed, both nationally and internationally, and swift and severe action will be taken through the courts.”
It continued: “This is a very serious matter and the government does not have the option of simply burying their collective heads in the sand. We remind them that the conditions at the Detention Centre and the treatment of inmates are already the subject of international scrutiny and Precautionary Measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
“In due course, HRB will report this matter to the IACHR, as well as to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and our other international partners.”
This is not the first allegation of rape involving officers of the Department of Immigration or Detention Centre.
In 2013, a Florida watchdog group alleged that a 24-year-old Cuban woman was raped and impregnated while at the holding facility. However local officials said at the time that the woman, who had been deported to Cuba, never made a formal complaint.
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.
A criminal trial into the matter was tossed out of court by a judge after the magistrate determined that the alleged victim’s testimony was not credible.
However the woman has since filed a civil suit against the government seeking at least $1m in damages. That case has not yet concluded.