RBDF could feel loss of mutual cross border protection
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Bahamas Ambassador to The United States Sidney Collie yesterday expressed concern about the impact the unprecedented 25-day partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government could have on The Bahamas and its mutual assistance programs, particularly cross-border patrol and emergency assistance.
Speaking to Eyewitness News Online, Collie said while it was not his intention to alarm, there were short-term and long-term implications that could be felt in The Bahamas if U.S. President Donald Trump is unable to come to some resolve with Democrats and the shutdown continues.
Approximately 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or working without pay.
Trump has demanded to have Congress provide $5.7 billion to build his promised border wall with Mexico, but Democrats have maintained that they will discuss border security once the government has reopened.
“The Coast Guard, which has been seriously impacted as one of the services of the United States; they are not being paid and as you know, the Coast Guard is very instrumental in flying [over] Bahamian waters and assisting with search and rescue, and in natural disasters.
“Right now, we’re not in the hurricane season, so that is not of immediate concern, but it can be a concern.
“And then, of course, the Coast Guard helps out with the interdiction of illegal immigration on our waters, and also with poaching on our borders.
“And so, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force eventually will feel the loss of that assistance if this drags on.”
The U.S. Coast Guard played a critical role in the search and rescue and eventual search and recovery effort for missing pilot Byron Ferguson, whose six-seater aircraft plunged into waters off Nirvana Beach last November.
Collie added, “There are other implications for The Bahamas because our airspace is controlled to this point by the United States, the FAA and federal authorities, and so, if the FAA and the controllers and the federal administration drags on, they are seriously impacted, and without a doubt, The Bahamas will be seriously impacted.
“I don’t want to scare anyone, but that will have implications for our tourism product.”
Collie, the permanent representative to the Organization of American States, said there were other short-term concerns, including the many Bahamians students scattered across the United States in universities, high schools, and boarding schools, all of whom could be impacted in the partial shutdown persists.
“With travel around the United States there is an issue; not only because of this time of year where the weather plays a big role, but also because of the job of the TSA for security purposes; the authorities at all of the airport are already issuing notices for travellers to come to the airport at least a minimum of three hours early.”
According to Collie, there are also concerns about high-level travel of ministers, prime ministers, heads of state and dignitaries to the U.S.
He said while those officials routinely receive secret service and other state department courtesies, those services have been curtailed.
“The embassy is very engaged because we facilitate our ministers and our prime minister and dignitaries who travel to the United States and through the United States,” Collie said.
“Those services have been put on hold.
“All of those things that I have articulated are concerns for me in the short term.”
Collie said if the partial shutdown continues into February, larger portions of the country and the services the federal government provide are likely to be “seriously impacted.”
As ambassador, Collie oversees seven consulates, including two honorary consuls in the U.S.
He said the work on the consulates is critical, particularly with documentation and processing of passports.
Collie pointed out that several Bahamians incarcerated in federal penitentiaries who were approved to be transferred to The Bahamas under the transfer treaty have been delayed due to the partial shutdown.
“All of those have been cleared,” he said.
“The paperwork has been finished.
“We were working on this from last year. Many of them were transferred from Atlanta to Miami at the Krome Detention [Processing] Centre and they should have been transferred from the 19th of this month.
“The officers dealing with the transfer on the U.S. side have been furloughed, so the inmates cannot be transferred. We are hoping they can get transferred early in February.”