Minister Johnson says United Nations has provisions for stateless people
Immigration overhaul bill still being reviewed
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government is seeking to wrap up the revised draft Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, 2018, said Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson yesterday.
Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet, Johnson noted that officials are feverishly going through the bill, to wrap it up and have it tabled in Parliament.
“We are working hard to complete that process so that women are able to pass on their citizenship,” he said.
The proposed legislation puts forth sweeping changes to the country’s immigration laws by seeking to address long-standing issues surrounding statelessness and the right to pass on citizenship.
Johnson noted that on the issue of statelessness in the country, many “persons don’t want what they have”.
“In a number of occasions persons have come to me and said to me that they are stateless only to find that you have a designation, but you don’t want that designation, you really want Bahamian citizenship,” he said.
“What I want to say to people is that it’s a right. Once you’re entitled to it, you will get it but you don’t use it as an opportunity or as a fallback.”
He noted that they are finding “too many people” who don’t want to live in The Bahamas and are “attempting to send back to get citizenship in case it doesn’t work out where they are”.
Johnson spoke to one incident with a young woman who has applied for her Bahamian citizenship but is currently living abroad.
He said he told the woman to come back to the country to bring in her documents personally, but she advised that if she came back and did not get approval, she will not be able to go back abroad.
He said he advised her that she is not entitled to citizenship because she does not intend to live or work in The Bahamas.
Johnsons insisted that while The Bahamas has a “caring capacity”, it may not be able to support all of the individuals claiming to be stateless.
“To the extent that we may not be able to carry all, the UN (United Nations) has provisions where you could reach out to other country’s to see how they can assist,” he added.
“But to the extent where persons are genuinely making application and want to live, work, be loyal, be patriotic, and committed to this country.
“You’re going to get it.
“Too many cases I find that people just see the Bahamas as an opportunity.
“Where we are now we need committed, loyal, persons who are prepared to build.”
Under the first draft of the bill, anyone born in The Bahamas after July 9, 1973, to non-Bahamian parents and does not apply for citizenship before by their 19th birthday, would lose that 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 new 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 Dame Anita Allen, and would repeal the Bahamas Nationality Act and the Immigration Act.