Foreign Affairs minister says fringe group exercising constitutional rights

Foreign Affairs minister says fringe group exercising constitutional rights
Minister of Foreign Affairs, North Abaco MP Darren Henfield speaks with Eyewitness News outside the House of Assembly. (file photo)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield yesterday dismissed the nationalist demonstration held outside the Haitian Embassy last week, noting that that type of thing happens all over the world.

Operation Sovereign Bahamas Founder Adrian Francis and several of the group’s supporters march in front of the Shirley Street Embassy, holding Bahamian flags and placards.

The group delivered a letter to embassy officials, demanding cooperation with the Bahamian government to repatriate Haitian migrants.

“We have not received any formal reports to my knowledge from any mission in The Bahamas as it relates to any security issues or concern that they may have,” Henfield told Eyewitness News Online.

“In The Bahamas groups have a constitutional right to gather and to assemble and to speak freely.

“Now I know the Haitian government has been receiving their nationals through ongoing and regular repatriations from The Bahamas to Haiti and I don’t expect that to stop anytime soon.

“Haiti is a member of CARICOM, as The Bahamas, and we continue to cooperate in these areas of challenge.”

The group was protesting the number of work permits the government has issued and the “constant rendering of citizenship without transparency”.

In the letter to the Haitian Embassy, the group said it was seeking, “a time-line negotiated with the government of The Bahamas to have illegal Haitians removed from The Bahamas,” and “a concerted joint effort between nations in the removal of shantytowns”.

The group requested that the embassy “speak to churches and church leaders regarding the harboring of Illegal and undocumented migrants” and “assist with the exposure of anyone involved with work permits and citizenship access by fraudulent means”.

The letter also called for “the complete removal of any staff involved in visa and marriage scandal from The Bahamas”, in the aftermath of a commission of inquiry into concerns of corruption at the Haitian embassy.

Francis said the group decided to take action “since the government is not speaking to Operation Sovereign Bahamas and or with the Bahamian people transparently about what is going on in the Haitian situation and the illegal immigration system”.

Asked yesterday whether the move from the group is a threat to the country’s diplomacy, Henfield said, “If you look at Haiti, there are ongoing demonstrations daily in front of foreign missions.

“This is nothing new. All of over the world this type of thing happens.”

The latest demonstration came just a month after the group protested outside of the Kendal G. L. Issacs Gymnasium, calling on the government to evict hundreds of Hurricane Dorian victims living at the designated shelter.