NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Rights Bahamas is calling on the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) to launch an immediate and thorough investigation into the Bahamas Immigration Department in light of the U.S. Department of State’s 2018 Human Rights Report.
The report, released earlier this week on Wednesday, outlined that there has been “widespread, credible” reports that Bahamian immigration officials physically abused detainees and officials “solicited bribes” to either prevent detention following raids or facilitate release, according to the United States government.
On Thursday, Rights Bahamas said it has repeatedly warned that the terrible reputation of this department would come to haunt the country, but these warnings have fallen on deaf ears.
“Now, the shameful sins of rampant corruption, severe physical and sexual abuse, and deplorable enforcement methods that lead to statelessness are on display for all the world to see,” Rights Bahamas said in a statement issued Thursday.
The group also claimed that under the former PLP administration, “the misdeeds of Immigration escalated as never before with the tacit support of a government that sought to use xenophobia and abuse of migrants as a cornerstone of its political platform.”
Rights Bahamas said there were high hopes that the Free National Movement government would take a different approach, but unfortunately, under Minister Brent Symonette, the longed-for reforms have not taken place.
“Instead, it has been more of the same: more illegal raids and roadblocks, more illegal deportations of people born in The Bahamas, more arbitrary detentions, more inhumane treatment, more violence and more ethnic profiling,” Rights Bahamas claimed.
“Most alarmingly, the State Department report raises concerns that far from being occasional and erratic, the corruption within the department actually takes the form of a well organised and sophisticated system of bribery and extortion.
“This corroborates similar suggestions by an FBI informant in a high-level Visa fraud case in the United States, as well as comments in a recent documentary about the ill-fated ‘Fyre Fest’.”
Rights Bahamas said the government simply cannot turn a blind eye to the report as the country’s international reputation is at stake like never before.
Rights Bahamas said the RBPF, perhaps in cooperation with FBI or other international investigators, must break this ‘Immigration extortion ring’ and bring those responsible to justice.
“They must follow the trail of wrongdoing however high it leads,” Rights Bahamas said, adding that there must also be radical reform of the manner in which the Immigration Enforcement Unit operates.
“The illegal apprehensions, bully tactics and degrading treatment must come to an end immediately, so must the arbitrary long-term incarcerations at the Detention Centre, the truly awful conditions at that facility and the shameful tactic of targeting individuals born in the Bahamas, who have broken no law, based on their ethnicity.”
In short, Rights Bahamas said an entire overhaul of the Immigration Department, including all of its policies, sections and operations, is urgently required.