Minister says “international community will see that we are being fair”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Immigration minister Elsworth Johnson yesterday said officials will go in and remove migrants who do not have status to be in The Bahamas.
The Kendal GL Isaacs Gymnasium, which has served as a shelter since last year, is slated to close at month’s end, according to officials.
However, Eyewitness News understands the Bahamas Academy Gymnasium shelter will continue to operate and house displaced storm victims.
“The majority are economic migrants,” Johnson told Eyewitness News on the sidelines of a swearing in ceremony at Government House.
“We have to always go into protection mode because they’re extremely vulnerable.
“To protect their fundamental rights — you are dealing with women; you are dealing with children, but you have the rule of law that requires persons legitimately.
“Some persons we know have been leaving, but we cannot allow shelters to be used as a mechanism to circumvent the law, and so we have been intercepting certain persons and we have to deal with it. That is just here we are.
“There is a way to do it. You have to do it in a dispassionate way without fear or favour or ill-will or malice and that is what we are doing.
“We are not being motivated by emotions because for persons this is a heated matter and the government must not only be seen to be fair and reasonable and objective, but it must be fair, reasonable and objective in these matters, so we are doing that.”
When asked whether immigration officers or other authorities have detained anyone from the shelters in New Providence, the minister: “Well, I can’t tell you everything that we are doing.”
Pressed on when officers could enter the shelters to remove undocumented migrants, Johnson: “We will deal with that matter and we are dealing with it in a justified way and in a way where it does not offend the human rights of anybody.
“And at the end of the day as we have been doing thus far, the local community and the international community will see that we are being fair, especially the fundamental rights of all.”
Asked whether there was concern of pushback from the international community, Johnson insisted The Bahamas is a sovereign nation that respect the rights of everyone/
“But the world respects our right to self-determine as a country,” he said.
He said: “We are fully appraised of the universal declaration of human rights, the rights of refugees, migrants, and we are following those norms, and so a small country after a catastrophic hurricane was able to with international help was able to remove persons to house them all regardless of origin. We have done that.
“And we are to be applauded and I want to commend everybody; the media and everybody that pitched in to do this.
“We have been pushing above our weight with everything that we have been doing, and in doing so we have been conducting ourselves with class, style and distinction and we are not going to change that.”
In late September 2019 after suspending the immigration exercises for several weeks following the storm, Johnson warned that the government would not allow shelters to be used to circumvent the law.
He added those who did not have a right to be in The Bahamas were “still subject to deportation and the enforcement of the immigration laws”.