New Immigration Bill not ready for consultation

Financial Services Minister, Brent Symonette.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS –  The proposed Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, which is intended to replace the current Immigration Bill, was released prematurely, Minister of Immigration Brent Symonette revealed on Tuesday.

“The new Immigration Bill is not out for consultation, yet it was unfortunately put up on the AGs website,” Symonette told reporters before heading to Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

The Immigration minister told media that the release process is supposed to mirror that of the Arbitration Bill and the blunder means that legislators will have to go back to the drawing board.

“The premature release of it has resulted in some comments that have been noted, but that was the idea of the consultation,” he said. “The bill would be prepared, it would be presented like I did the Arbitration Bill and go out for wide consultation and come back possibly after the summer break and take another look at it.”

Symonette said he is also waiting on feedback from law reform commissioner, Dame Anita Allen, as it relates to some changes in regard to the bill.

Few of the implications listed in the new bill have been reported in the media, including the section that speaks to Bahamian women being able to pass down their citizenship. Yesterday, Symonette said that he is still shocked that Bahamians voted against this in the last referendum.

The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill was drafted by the Law Reform Commission. The bill, which is 123 pages, would repeal the Bahamas Nationality Act and the Immigration Act.

Symonette said he is aiming to release the Immigration Bill for consultation during the 2019-2020 budget debate.