Attorney challenges govt. immigration threat
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Attorney Wayne Munroe is encouraging the government to go into storm shelters in New Providence and screen shelterees to identify “who is in there”.
“Why wouldn’t you find out who is in the shelters and what their status is?” he said.
“Let’s assume someone is wanted and is in one of the shelters. Why wouldn’t you want to know who is in there when the shelter experience is going to come to an end at some point?”
Responding to questions from Eyewitness News Online, Munroe said the government does not appear serious about enforcing its immigration policies.
Amid calls from international humanitarian organizations to suspend immigration enforcement exercises without following due process, the government has maintained it will follow the law in a humane manner.
Munroe said: “All of it is just strong talk with no action.”
He continued: “I’ll take a step back and I hope people don’t think this is overly critical, but the fact that you don’t know who is who says that you have no holistic plan to address the disaster.
“…If they had any sensible planning for that, they would know on transportation who is a Bahamian citizen or who claims to be a Bahamian citizen; who claims to have status in The Bahamas like a permanent resident or an annual resident or somebody with permission to work or in fact who has no status at all.”
Munroe suggested the government and its agencies should have pre-screened evacuees as part of its hurricane preparedness and relief plan, noting it would have been in a better position to determine who does not have a right to be in the country.
“If they were doing their jobs properly, on transportation, the people who had no status would have been transported to the holding facility we have for the people with no status — if indeed they were serious,” he said.
In a press briefing note on The Bahamas, dated October 11, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concern over the deportation of 112 Haitian migrants on October 3.
The agency said among those deported were people impacted by the Category 5 storm.
The government temporarily suspended immigration enforcement in storm-ravaged areas following the storm, but in his first address to Parliament in the storm’s aftermath, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis warned “illegals” to leave or be forced to leave.
Similar comments were echoed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The IOM said it has rejected a request from The Bahamian government to oversee forced repatriations of Haitian migrants.
Munroe said: “I don’t understand anyone — and I hear these activists — who could be advocating that illegal migrants not be deported from a country. That actually scandalizes legal migrants because then when people say Haitians, the connotation is you are illegal, when the vast numbers are not here not illegally and are doing absolutely nothing wrong.”
Some local human rights groups have said the decision to resume deportation exercises was ill-time given the trauma storm victims experienced.
“An ocean voyage from Haiti in which the boat sinks and people drown is traumatic, very traumatic,” the attorney said.
“Those people, the U.S. Coast puts on the deck on their cutters (small to medium-sized vessel) and take immediately back to Haiti if they intercept them at sea. Those persons, if we intercept them — the Bahamian defence force intercept these people who have gone through that traumatic experience — they are taken to the detention center to await deportation.
Munroe continued: “If the minister is saying, they are going to treat all illegals entrants the same, this thing about trauma applies as equally to people in the detention center now as to people who [survived] the storm because a lot of them survived a sinking in which many people drowned. But we don’t exempt them from detention and deportation because of a traumatic event they went through.”
Thousands were displaced by the storm, which leveled portions of Abaco and Grand Bahama.
Construction is underway on a $6.4 million family relief city to house storm victims.
Residents of Spring City and Central Pines will be given priority to the units, which are slated to be decommissioned within 24 months.
On Sunday, Minnis maintained undocumented migrants will not be accommodated.