Bell defends efforts to curb rise in migrants

Labour and Immigration Minister Keith Bell.

Labour and Immigration Minister Keith Bell.



Immigration Minister Keith Bell yesterday defended the government’s efforts in handling irregular migrants amid a significant influx of people from Haiti and Cuba to The Bahamas.

Yesterday, Mr Bell told reporters outside the House of Assembly that he was expected to have a meeting with the commissioner of police, along with the director of immigration and executives to discuss recent migration trends.

He also confirmed migration activity in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, last week, adding that there was an additional landing of 50 Cubans on Tuesday night.

In addition to the continuous migration of Haitians to The Bahamas, Mr Bell noted that the government has seen a marked “upswing” in the number of irregular migrants from Cuba who are escaping food shortages and rising inflation, among other issues.

“I want to reassure the Bahamian people that all of the law enforcement partners are working very closely together in respect to ensuring that they are able to apprehend these persons as they seek to make their way to the United States and when they end up in our jurisdiction, there is swift intervention,” he said yesterday.

He continued: “We check them and screen them obviously for medical reasons, and then we repatriate as quickly as possible. So, we have several exercises, repatriation, underway this week as well. And we’re continuing to monitor and when we need to prosecute, we will do so again.”

Much like The Bahamas, the US, particularly the Florida Keys, has seen a marked increase in migration over the last several months, which has resulted in hundreds of interceptions.

Mr Bell said that all irregular migrants go through due process and are screened by immigration officials for proper evaluation and assessment.

He noted that there has been a significant change in the type of vessels used to conduct the activity.

Previously, the irregular migrants were transported in wooden sloops, however, recently the boats are being propelled by engines. In some instances, they are said to be smuggled through “pleasure crafts,” according to the immigration minister.

As a result of these findings, Mr Bell said law enforcement is monitoring all vessels travelling within the jurisdiction.

The immigration minister has previously said that as a developing country The Bahamas cannot afford to accommodate the large influx of irregular migrants coming here.

Earlier this month, he acknowledged the influx of irregular migration, noting that law enforcement officials will remain on high alert and also committed his ministry to ensuring “that anyone who comes here through illegal means” will be repatriated as quickly as possible.

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