NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson yesterday issued another warning on increased enforcement, including a crackdown on Justices of Peace (JP) who have been allegedly producing fraudulent documents.
Johnson made the comment as he addressed ongoing immigration concerns in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian outside Cabinet.
“We have a certain standard and everybody is going to live up to that,” he told reporters outside Cabinet.
“Here’s what you are going you are going to see. More Bahamians being charged with harboring persons, $10,000 or five years.
“When you make false complaints to the immigration department, we don’t care your age, we will arrest you.
“So if you know full well that you are not living in a subsistent marriage, don’t come and make those statements, so you will see that happening.
“Justices of the peace, who are producing fraudulent documents, we are now reviewing these files.
“…When we review those files, the attorney general’s office has demonstrated properly what will happen. You will be charged. You will be put before the courts.”
Under the Law Reform Commission’s proposed Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, 2018, any person who assists in illegal landing or harboring of illegal entrants in The Bahamas would face stiffer penalties.
The new provision would make a person liable for assisting, organizing, facilitating or providing material support or resources for securing entry or continued residence into the country of any person who they know has no entitlement to enter or remain in The Bahamas.
The clause would also make it an offense for a person to make any false statement or use any document known to be false for the purpose of assisting or facilitating any person to unlawfully enter or remain in the country; and anyone who knowingly assists individuals in breaching a deportation order to secure a person’s illegal entry into The Bahamas or to secure illegal residence in The Bahamas.
Individuals found contravening the proposed laws would be, “liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both such fine and imprisonment, or on conviction on information to a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years or to both such fine and imprisonment”.
The immigration overhaul bill would also place a duty on marriage officers or other persons, who reasonable believe that a marriage celebrated is a marriage of convenience, to report such marriage to the Director of Immigration, who would further that report for investigation.
According to Attorney General Carl Bethel, the government has received the revised draft of the bill, however, it remains in the review stage.
While he did not want to indicate yesterday how many JPs were being investigated, Johnson said, “I can tell you that there are overt and covert investigations being done and the result of that will be seen.
“You can’t expose that at this time. You are innocent until proven guilty and you don’t want to do that
“But I want to put Bahamians on notice. This problem only persists and subsists to the extent that we have been tacitly or overtly involved in it.”
Pointing to a particular incident, the immigration minister said: “How does a man who was convicted for fraud, convicted for overstaying his time, placed on the restricted list get back into The Bahamas? Then is picked up for a firearm, then is removed from the restricted list.
Johnson added: “If that happens to any one of us in the U.S., we will never breath that air again over there again and you know that.”