NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The partial shutdown of The United States federal government has not affected relations between the U.S. and The Bahamas, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In a statement yesterday, the ministry said it has been assured by U.S. government Officials that Bahamian citizens are still able to access consular services such as the acquisition of visas.
The ministry added that “critical areas of mutual interest, inclusive of maritime border security arrangements between the two countries, such as the Comprehensive Maritime Agreement and Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos, are not impacted.
“The Governments of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and United States of America remain strong strategic allies and are committed to their long-term partnership in areas of mutual interests.”
In an interview with Eyewitness News Online Wednesday, Bahamas Ambassador to The United States Sidney Collie yesterday expressed concern about the impact of the partial shutdown, and said there were both short-term and long-term implications for The Bahamas.
Approximately 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or working without pay.
Trump has demanded to have Congress provide $5.7 billion to build his promised border wall with Mexico, but Democrats have maintained that they will discuss border security once the government has reopened.
“The Coast Guard, which has been seriously impacted as one of the services of the United States; they are not being paid and as you know, the Coast Guard is very instrumental in flying [over] Bahamian waters and assisting with search and rescue, and in natural disasters,” Collie said.
“Right now, we’re not in the hurricane season, so that is not of immediate concern, but in can be a concern.
“And then of course, the Coast Guard helps out the interdiction of illegal immigration on our waters, and also with poaching on our borders.
“And so, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force eventually will feel the loss of that assistance if this drags on.”
The U.S. Coast Guard played a critical role in the search and rescue and eventual search and recovery effort for missing pilot Byron Ferguson, whose six-seater aircraft plunged into waters off Nirvana Beach last November.