FIRMING UP: Nationality and immigration overhaul bill still under review

FIRMING UP: Nationality and immigration overhaul bill still under review
Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration and Yamacraw MP Elsworth Johnson.

Immigration minister hopeful bill will be laid during Minnis administration’s current term

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas Law Reform Commission is still in the process of making final revisions to the third draft Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, said Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson yesterday.

“[Dame Anita Allen] and her support staff are working feverishly to complete that process,” he said in an interview with Eyewitness News on the matter.

While he could not indicate when the latest revision of the draft bill is expected to be completed, Johnson said he hopes the bill will be laid in Parliament during this Minnis administration.

Parliament was adjourned until September 22 following the passage of the 2021/2022 fiscal budget.

Under the first draft of the bill, anyone born in The Bahamas after July 9, 1973 to non-Bahamian parents and who does not apply for citizenship before by their 19th birthday would lose the right to apply for citizenship.

Additionally, the bill would have given individuals who fall under that category six months after the law takes effect to apply for some form of status or risk being deported.

Provisions under the draft legislation would also establish a “right of abode” in The Bahamas for anyone born in the country to foreign parents while they are a minor.

It also outlines provisions for asylum in the country.

The bill was drafted by the Law Reform Commission, headed by Allen, and would repeal the Bahamas Nationality Act and the Immigration Act.

The matter of citizenship continues to be a longstanding hot-button issue throughout the country’s history.

The Court of Appeal recently upheld a historic Supreme Court ruling that children born out of wedlock to foreign women and Bahamian men are entitled to citizenship at birth.

The government had sought to appeal a ruling by Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder handed down last May over the true interpretation of Article 6 of the Constitution.

Attorney General Carl Bethel has advised that the government intends to go to the Privy Council to appeal the decision.

About Sloan Smith

Sloan Smith is a senior digital reporter at Eyewitness News, covering a diverse range of beats, from politics and crime to environment and human interest. In 2018, Sloan received a nomination for the “Leslie Higgs Feature Writer of The Year Award” from The Bahamas Press Club for her work with Eyewitness News.