Repatriations decline as defense force tightens border control

Repatriations decline as defense force tightens border control
(FILE PHOTO)

Govt. pledges crackdown on Bahamians harboring irregular migrants

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — With fewer than three months remaining in the year, the Department of Immigration has observed a drop in illegal landings and repatriations this year compared to 2019, according to the department’s direction, Clarence Russell.

In 2019, the department deported 2,290 individuals and detained 2,664 people.

For the year so far, the department has deported 829 people.

This represents a 63 percent decline in deportations.

According to Russell, 22 individuals were recently convicted in Grand Bahama.

He said the courts fined a Bahamian man, identified as the captain, $8,000, or face four years in prison.

The director said those individuals were expected to be repatriated to Haiti.

Asked whether immigration exercises were ongoing during the pandemic, Russell said: “We are very active in the community in spite of COVID-19, but not as active as before.

“I think you know the defense force has tightened the border control, and so we have had very few, to the best of my knowledge, landings. And so, we are working effectively on the other duties and responsibilities associated with the immigration department.”

Crackdown

Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson said the government and the relevant agencies have placed an increased focus on Bahamians harboring unregulated individuals and will seek the maximum penalties under the law when placing them before the courts.

He said the government’s ongoing digitization process will help in this effort, and “make the whole process of applying and enforcement much more transparent”.

“I am convinced that we have dead persons walking among us and that is why we are urgently addressing the scanning of all historical files,” he said.

“We’re cross-referencing employers to see how many persons as we digitize have about six persons working as handymen on a tract of land that is only 50 by 80.

“We’re also going island by island and identifying work permits that have been granted to ensure employers guarantee or tell us the truth in terms of where persons are living.

“We’re finding that too many persons are being granted licenses to be in The Bahamas and they’re living in shantytowns. This cannot be.

“So, we’re tightening up on that and I want to commend the director and his men because we are focusing more on harboring.

“I want to say to Bahamians, wherever it is that you bring persons to live in The Bahamas, ensure those persons that you lease your apartments to are properly resident or properly licensed by the immigration department.”