Carmichael Road Detention Centre
By LYNAIRE MUNNINGS
Tribune Staff Reporter
ACTING Immigration Director William Pratt said the Department of Immigration’s policy is to deport children born in The Bahamas to Haiti with their parents if those guardians lack legal status to be in this country.
Human Rights Bahamas, a group that often advocates for immigrants, countered that children born in The Bahamas should not be deported even if their parents lack legal status.
Mr Pratt’s comment came after the friend of a woman apprehended in Fox Hill last Thursday visited The Tribune yesterday to complain that no one could take care of her friend's ten-year-old daughter, who was left behind because she was in school when her mother was taken.
The friend said her efforts to reunite the girl with her mother, including a visit to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre, failed.
The girl said she loved her mother and cried after learning immigration officers arrested her. The student said she didn’t want to go to Haiti because she had never been there and was born and raised in The Bahamas.
The Tribune worked with Mr Pratt to determine if the girl’s mother was in immigration custody. Officials eventually confirmed that she was in a safe house with her three-year-old child.
The Tribune has shared the names of those involved with Immigration but is not publishing the names to protect the child.
Mr Pratt said immigration officials would investigate a claim that the mother had a work permit application for which the only outstanding requirement is payment.
He said if the mother has no legal right to be in the country and no relatives want to adopt the girl, the child would be deported to Haiti with her mother.
“We can’t leave the child here to become a ward of a state if the child’s parents are still alive,” he said. “We have an embassy in Port au Prince. When the child gets 18, the child puts in (her) application or the child could file for Belonger’s status, and the child could return to The Bahamas based on her birth.”
“Minors have to go with their parents. We can’t leave them here, and then anything go wrong we get blamed as a country, as a state. But as I said, if the father is here and he wish to get legal guardianship for the child, we would have Department of Social Services interview him and investigate his environment to see whether it is conducive. Once the social services give the okay, then we will be more than willing for the child to be released into the custody of the legal guardian.”
The Bahamas has resisted international calls to halt deportations to Haiti amid that country’s instability.