NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Multi-million dollar upgrades at the Department of Immigration are helping to strengthen the department’s fight against illicit maritime activity – including human, gun and weapon smuggling, according to immigration minister Brent Symonette.
The trafficking of humans, weapons and illegal drugs is an ongoing issue for the immigration department and given the geographical make-up of The Bahamas; immigration and Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) officials find it challenging to protect and man its borders.
The department is also tasked with overseeing the Carmichael Road Detention Centre, its ongoing Sandy Bottom project and the outfitting of a new base in Matthew Town, Inagua.
Nevertheless, the department is making significant inroads in meeting its projected goals, according to Symonette who said millions of dollars have been spent on major upgrades within his ministry.
“Certainly, we have increased the size of the detention centre, we have new bedding in the detention centre, we’ve spent some $1.2 million dollars on getting new buses and cars for the Department of Immigration and we’ve also hired some 200 trainees in 2018,” he shared.
In addition to these upgrades, Symonette revealed that the immigration fight will soon be better equipped with tech-savvy tools such as drones.
Captain Philip Clarke of the RBDF confirmed the same.
“We have a commercial system that we are testing in southern New Providence. Testing has been excellent so far,” Capt. Clarke said.
“We are now able to get visuals from above to see what’s happening on the ground.
“The idea going forward is that the drone system will improve our coastal surveillance and be able to be deployed from our ships wherever they are on the open waters so that we can see what is happening in our maritime domain.”
The department has also successfully chipped away at its backlog in processing permits and other documentation, Symonette noted.
“We are down to six weeks response time on work permits, one third are being emailed to applicants and the other two-thirds are being sent through the mail,” he noted.
“We are working on permanent residency and citizenship now.
“The commission that [assesses] persons born in The Bahamas who apply between 18 and 19; they are down to 233 applicants that are outstanding who have completed their files.”
Symonette admitted that the immigration department still has room for improvement, and remains a work in progress.