Rights Bahamas says ministers’ response to IACHR hearing is ‘petty and immature’

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Rights Bahamas group did not waste any time on Tuesday, to slam Immigration Minister Brent Symonette and Attorney General Carl Bethel, for the comments they made following an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) hearing, which highlighted the rights of migrants and their descendants in The Bahamas.

At the hearing held last week in Kingston, Jamaica, its President, Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitino, said detention was not the answer to tackle the country’s immigration challenges.

Troitino also touched on the issue of statelessness due to the lack of documentation.

On Monday, Immigration Minister Brent Symonette told the media that he has a difficulty with international organizations forcing their way of doing things on The Bahamas.

Also, while debating and later passing amendments to the Immigration Act in the Senate on Monday night, Attorney General Carl Bethel said the government will, in due course, put out a properly diplomatically worded statement to send to the IACHR, to indicate that the government feels that they may have gone a little too far in some of the rhetoric exchanged at the hearing.

On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Peter Turnquest, said yesterday that the suggestion made to hire immigrants to work and help the country’s economy is an unreasonable one.

“Any suggestion that we just ought to fling open the doors and any everybody could come is inherently disadvantageous, dangerous [and] reckless to the Bahamian people,” Turnquest told media before heading to Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

But in its statement released Tuesday, Rights Bahamas said the ‘immature’ and ‘confrontational’ comments by Attorney General Carl Bethel and Minister of Immigration Brent Symonette in the wake of the hearing were extremely unhelpful.

“We urge them to remember that the protection of the fundamental human rights of each and every individual is serious business, not a petty game or puerile ego contest,” Rights Bahamas said.

“We urge these ministers to focus on the substance of the issues raised at the hearings and treat the rights of women, the rights of children, the rights of migrants, and the protections enshrined in the Bahamas Constitution with more respect.”

Rights Bahamas said the group remains hopeful that despite the ‘confrontational’ stance that Symonette and Bethel insist on maintaining, the Executive as a collective, and especially Prime Minister Minnis, will see the light and take this opportunity to work with civil society to correct the longstanding institutional injustices which continue to plague The Bahamas.

Rights Bahamas said it remains committed to ensuring that every single person in The Bahamas enjoys the same rights and freedoms as everyone else, and will continue to raise these issues both locally and internationally in pursuit of this goal.

The  IACHR hearing was held at the regional headquarters of the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica on May 10th.

The request for the hearing was filed by Rights Bahamas in conjunction with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, which is headquartered in Washington, DC.

This led the Bahamas government to be called before the 172nd session of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR), to respond to a petition from Rights Bahamas on the treatment of migrants.

Representing the government of The Bahamas at the session was State Minister for Legal Affairs, Elsworth Johnson.

Ginelle Longley also contributed to this article.