NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Department of Immigration in collaboration with the Royal Bahamas Police Force launched a mass exercise on Andros amidst “complaints of increased sightings of suspected illegal migrants”.
The exercise dubbed “Operation Chickcharney” was launched on Saturday morning.
“The purpose of the operation was to investigate and where necessary take the necessary action against any illegal migrant/s found, regardless of one’s ethnicity,” the immigration department said in a statement.
“We have reaped some success, as we continue our operations.
The statement continued: “We wish to remind the general public that we are committed to executing the mandates of our agency, by effectively coordinating efforts with other law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance with the Statute Laws of our country.
“We further wish to remind members of the public that it is a criminal offense to harbour illegal migrants, and it is punishable by law in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.”
The exercise comes months after claims the number of Haitian migrants on the island had dramatically increased in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
Less than a week after the storm, a group of 13 men blocked the entrance to Staniard Creek in North Andros to prevent Haitian workers – who were believed to be undocumented – from accessing Kamalame Cay.
At the time, Central Andros Administrator Glen Lightbourne told Eyewitness News Online the ‘minor’ incident was swiftly resolved by police.
Lightbourne insisted the matter was an isolated incident; however, in the following days a group called Descendants of North Andros raised concerns in a letter about the alleged relocation of Haitians from Abaco to Andros.
The group’s letter, and its claim that a San Andros shantytown had swelled to some 700 residents, was met with furor as it spread widely on social media.
Last month, an affidavit sworn by a former chief councilor on Andros claimed that more than 900 residents live across three shantytown communities in North Andros.
Peter Douglas, 60, further claimed that those numbers have increased by 100 percent since Dorian.
The affidavit was used in support of a summons issued to attorneys representing 177 New Providence and Abaco shantytown residents, seeking to lift an injunction blocking the demolition of shantytown structures.
James Roosevelt Thompson & Company has applied to add Gregory Bowe of San Andros and Shawn Nixon of Marsh Harbour as third-party applicants in the ongoing court matter between the government and shantytown residents.
Bowe and Nixon are seeking to have the injunction discharged as strangers, but if this application is dismissed they intend to file for the injunction to be discharged or amended to require the shantytown residents to “act under the principles that he who seeks equity must do equity”.
The firm is also seeking an order to add Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson as a respondent in the matter, and that he be ordered by the court to enforce the criminal sanctions of the law in respect to shantytown communities throughout the country.