BY ROGAN SMITH
The United Nations has some nerve.
Last week, the Office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called on the Minnis administration to suspend deportations to Haiti following Hurricane Dorian. Apparently, the international body has concerns about the government’s immigration policy and the way undocumented Haitian migrants are being treated following the storm.
“We call on the government to refrain from deporting individuals who lack documentation without the individual assessments and due process guarantees to which they are entitled under international law.”
Sounds like a pretty fair request, except, who told the UN that undocumented Haitian migrants had not gotten due process? Did they hear that from on-the-ground human rights activists, who seem to get angry every time the Government of The Bahamas does what it needs to do to secure its borders? What made the UN think that the government wasn’t doing its job effectively?
Contrary to popular belief, our government doesn’t just snatch people off the streets and throw them on planes bound for their home countries. There is a legal process that the government follows and has been following for decades. The process for repatriation is no different now than it was before the storm.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said the repatriation exercises have been carried out consistent with international standards and human rights norms. I have no evidence to suggest they haven’t been.
While there were some individuals whose documents were destroyed during the storm, there were also undocumented migrants who had no legal right to be in the country. While we want to ensure that those with permission to be here, remain here, we also have a duty to ensure that those who have no legal right to be in The Bahamas, are returned from whence they came, be they Haitian, Jamaican or American.
Ashamed For What?
Rights Bahamas says the government “should be ashamed” that the UN criticized it. Ashamed for what? For safeguarding its borders? For enforcing this country’s laws? The government has nothing to be ashamed of.
The Bahamas has been decent in its handling of illegal immigrants. Compare that with the way Haitian migrants are treated when they cross the border to the Dominican Republic and are arrested. According to the Minority Rights Group International, many Haitian migrants claim they don’t even get an opportunity to demonstrate their legal status. There are even widespread reports about immigration officials in that country destroying those individuals’ residency documents.
The Bahamas is nothing like that. In fact, despite what Rights Bahamas thinks, our nation has been very accommodating and respectful during this process. Let’s not forget that it was the Minnis administration that relaxed this nation’s immigration policies after the hurricane. But, it seems that was not enough for Rights Bahamas. In fact, I rarely hear any condemnation of those entering this country illegally. Where is the outrage from Rights Bahamas when people break the law?
We cannot allow unchecked illegal immigration just to keep Rights Bahamas and other sympathizers quiet.
If there’s anyone who should be ashamed, it’s the UN for feeling like it could tell a sovereign nation how to carry out its laws. The UN also seems to enjoy cherry picking which countries it wags its finger of condemnation at.
Apparently, Attorney General Carl Bethel agrees.
“It is unfortunate sometimes that international organizations, with all respect, apply standards to little countries like The Bahamas that they do not enforce in their own countries,” he said.
“How would they know that this is not happening? Our immigration officers do not deport persons willy-nilly. In fact, the Immigration Department does not have the power to deport. It is the court that deports.”
If you’ve followed my column, you would know that I am very much a supporter of assisting our Haitian brothers and sisters. I have repeatedly appealed for compassion and kindness following the passage of the deadly Hurricane Dorian and detest the high levels of xenophobia that have surfaced since the deadly storm.
But, I also know that there are consequences for those who break the law, whether they are Bahamian or non-Bahamian. If you enter the country illegally, you can and should expect to be escorted out, when caught, just as I’d expect a Bahamian to be repatriated if he or she entered another person’s country and remained there illegally.
Human rights activist and attorney, Fred Smith QC serves a vital role in this country, and I thank him for it. But, he does not run this country and his litigious nature can be incredibly off-putting.
He is certainly entitled to advocate on behalf of those whom he believes are disenfranchised, but the government cannot kowtow every time he threatens legal action.
Balancing human rights and border security is tough business. While I believe they can coexist, they certainly do not coexist by the total elimination of either.
Countries around the world are adopting a zero-tolerance to illegal immigration, the US is no exception.
Last month, President Donald Trump took to the United Nations podium and called on world leaders to “put their own nations first.” He made his case for strong borders and also highlighted the dangers that unchecked immigration represents.
“When you undermine border security, you are undermining human rights and dignity. Many of the countries here today are coping with the challenges of uncontrolled migration. Each of you has the absolute right to protect your borders. And so, of course, does our country,” he said.
While many may not like Trump and may be opposed to his method, there can be no denying that many countries, including ours, need to get a grip on illegal immigration.
For decades, Bahamians have called on subsequent governments to curb illegal immigration. Well, you finally have an administration that is following through.
Ask and ye shall receive.