Immigration director: No fear about independent investigations

Immigration director: No fear about independent investigations
Director of Immigration Clarence Russell

Immigration director: Complaints to be thoroughly and independently reviewed

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Director of Immigration Clarence Russell said any complaint made to the Department of Immigration will be “thoroughly” and “independently investigated”.

Russell underscored immigration officers found to have erred will face the brunt of the law.

“I have confidence that we are doing everything that is humanely possible to make certain that rule of law applies when we take persons into custody, and if and when a complaint comes to our attention it will be investigated thoroughly,” Russell said.

“If persons are found wanting, as has been the case in the past, they too will face the brunt of the law, whether they are immigration officers or otherwise. And so, I am satisfied that we have put systems in place that protects the interests of all and sundry who comes into our custody.”

Russell was responding to questions from Eyewitness News Online concerning recent allegations of abuse during immigration operations.

Last month, the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Mission in Haiti reported that deported migrants screened by the agency displayed evident signs of physical abuse.

“Any complaint that comes to the attention of this director will be independently investigated, and if we feel that we do not have the capacity based on our limited resources to do such investigations, then we will hand it over to the police,” Russell said.

“We have no reservations and no fear about investigations, but as long as I sit as director of the immigration department, every citizen will be treated fairly.”

Russell said the department acts on facts and not conjecture permeating social media.

He suggested the motivation behind some reports making the rounds on social media, which occasionally reaches international organizations, is to deter the department from its mandate.

“You would also be aware of a recent report circulated that suggests that an individual who was taken into custody in Abaco was in fact dead,” the director said.

“It created pandemonium in the society and persons commented on that without having the facts. I don’t speak to matters without having the facts of evidence available to me.

Russell said: “It forced me on your behalf and every citizen of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas’ behalf to in fact bring that person forward who was at our detention center and have them speak to a translator to say ‘I am very much alive’.

“Could you imagine what message that sent to the international organizations? So, we don’t act on conjecture. We act on facts. I don’t respond to social media rhetoric.”

According to the director, the department has done everything within its power to ensure the law is applied fairly.

He said the department remains open to international bodies which wish to view its facilities.

Russell said: “I know that we have taken international bodies to the detention center, who sat with us and ate in our environment and had free hand as does every ambassador for every individual who comes into our custody.

“You’re welcomed and they have been welcomed to come to the detention center and speak and interact with their citizens. I mean what more do you want? And so, the rhetoric of persons who would wish to deter us from doing our duty and due diligence will not deter the immigration department.”

Russell encouraged anyone who has been aggrieved by the department to make a complaint to the anti-corruption and complaints unit of the department.

He also noted a report can be made anonymously on www.immigration.gov.bs.