The proposed amendment to the Criminal Evidence Witness Anonymity Act passed in the Lower Chamber Wednesday evening, will strengthen the Ministry of Immigration’s efforts to crack down on human traffickers, according to Immigration Minister Brent Symonette.
“As we seek to put fear in criminals as a result of this bill, I want to put fear in people involved in smuggling immigrants,” Symonette said.
“While we talk about the balance of justice, we have to ensure that it is done straight across the board.”
The immigration minister, who fully supported debate on the amendment in the House of Assembly (HOA) said, the new act will encourage persons who wish to report human smugglers to authorities, outright protection.
The minster said, it will help to increase the number of persons who will decide to come forward with information.
“A person who wants to report an immigration officer for trying to accept a bribe; I want to ensure that they have the same type of anonymity. We should have a program where when evidence on a purported immigration matter is brought forward, those persons can have some sort of protection,” he said.
While the bill is intended to crack-down on human smugglers, Symonette said, it will also target sex traffickers.
The immigration minister pointed out that there have been instances where foreigners, working in The Bahamas on work permits, have been brought before the Bahamian court on human smuggling charges.
He sternly noted that any foreigner nabbed for human smuggling or sex trafficking, will be charged, fined, permit revoked and deported.
“One was caught, charged and fined the other day. He was here on a work permit. That permit is up for renewal and will shortly be on my desk. In case he hasn’t heard yet, the clear message is that it will be refused. We cannot allow human traffickers to break the law in our country and seek a work permit,” he lamented.
“You cannot break our laws, come to our government and expect to have protection of the state to stay in this country.”
“Go home now,” he exclaimed.
Symonette told parliamentarians that government must impose a degree of fear in order to get crime and illicit human trafficking under control.