AG: Immigration laws to be amended

AG: Immigration laws to be amended
Attorney General, Carl Bethel.

Attorney General Carl Bethel Monday told Senators that the country’s immigration laws are set to be amended in order to strengthen the powers of the immigration minister while also allowing officials the ability to deport illegal migrants without court proceedings.

In his contribution to the mid-year budget, Bethel stated that the proposed amendments to the Immigration act will give the minister the right to order any illegal migrant’s deportation without the need to obtain a court order.

“Similarly,” he said, “the power of the Immigration Department to detain an undocumented person pending a deportation order for up to two months without a court order, under Section 26 of the Act, will be strengthened by removing its present tie-in to section 25, which speaks of a similar power in relation to persons who land at an air or sea port, who may be detained for up to two months for the purpose of placing them back on the same aircraft or ship in which they arrived.”

The AG noted that the law to deal with mass deportations will not be an amendment to the Immigration Act instead confirming that it will be separate legislation.

To date the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) has apprehended a total of 281 migrants; 188 migrants off the coast of Inagua in March and another 69 were arrested off Long Island in January.

Shifting from standard procedures, the government expeditiously hauled those illegal immigrants before the courts; an unprecedented move following the controversial Jean Rony Jean-Charles matter.

The government’s review of the Immigration Act came on the heels of the recent court rulings in the Supreme Court where Justice Gregory Hilton ordered the unconditional release of eight people who were unlawfully held at the Carmichael Road Detention Center.

At the start of the year, the highly publicized Jean Rony Jean-Charles case caught public attention after it was revealed that he was detained by immigration officers last September and sent to Haiti last November – a process which was eventually deemed unlawful.

In the wake of these matters, the government has committed to ensure that any illegal migrant caught entering the country will appear before a magistrate.

“Based upon our conviction that The Bahamas as a sovereign nation that has the absolute right to control its own borders and to regulate who and how any person can enter or remain,” he said, “the drafting officials in the Law Reform Commission have been instructed to draft a new law, as a supplemental law, not tied to, but supplemental to, the Immigration Act to deal with these mass migration landing events, which the Immigration Act as presently structured is ill equipped to deal with.”