Symonette responds to circulated video of apprehension

Symonette responds to circulated video of apprehension
Minister of Immigration, Brent Symonette.

Immigration dispels rumours of alleged kidnapping


NASSAU, BAHAMAS –  On the heels of two reports that shed a negative light on the Department of Immigration, Brent Symonette, the minister responsible for immigration, on Monday suggested that the public, instead of criticizing the efforts of officers, should offer their assistance when witnessing matters that may be of concern.

Symonette was responding to a video that circulated this weekend on social media of a man being put into what appears to be the trunk of a car head first by Immigration Officers on the island of Eleuthera.

The Department of Immigration, however, has strongly refuted the contents of the video which many on social media referred to as a “kidnapping”.

Also, a family who reached out to Eyewitness News Online alleged that Immigration Officers murdered their dog as they attempted to apprehend a Haitian migrant.

According to Symonette, there are several basic principles that immigration officers must follow as they act within the law to apprehend potential suspects.

“It’s not always hello, how are you, do you mind coming with me,” Symonette said, adding that it was important not to jump to conclusions.

“We can’t sit back and criticize the government and not assist,” the immigration minister said. “It is very easy to sit back and say, ‘I think it was a little rough, or they shouldn’t have done that’. We have to be careful on either side not to desensitize or to sensationalize.

“I wouldn’t say it was kidnapping, but they probably mishandled the person, that’s what we have to look into,” Symonette said.

And despite the public’s skepticism of how apprehensions are carried out, Symonette said the overall the needs of detainees are well taken care of.

Rights Bahamas, in a statement released on their Facebook page, referred to the Eleuthera apprehension as a “kidnapping”. Some commentators also argued that the vehicle used by immigration officers appeared not to be licensed by the government.

Stephanie St. Fleur, president of Rights Bahamas expressed that the way the man in the video was detained is “totally unlawful”.

“There is absolutely no legal requirement for members of the public to travel with any documents whatsoever, nor do officers have the right to stop anyone and demand that they produce papers. Everyone in the Bahamas has the freedom to movement,” St. Fleur said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Immigration on Monday moved to dispel what they termed to be “rumours” circulating in the media which alleged that Immigration Officers had kidnapped a male of Haitian descent on the island of Eleuthera.

In a statement released Monday, Immigration said it wanted to inform the public that it was aware of a video circulating in the media of Immigration Officers on duty apprehending the Haitian national.

Immigration said to bring clarity to the situation, the Department wanted to inform the public of the series of events which led to the arrest on Friday, February 15.

“Immigration and Royal Bahamas Police Force Officers of the Eleuthera District conducted an island-wide apprehension exercise. As a result, while in the area of Palmetto Point, Eleuthera, the male in question was cautioned and arrested after he was unable to provide the officers with identification showing his legal status in The Bahamas,” the immigration statement read.

Immigration said in an effort to secure the male in question, officers placed him in the Department’s vehicle, a Hyundai Tuscan Hatchback, that transported him to a larger, more secured vehicle less than two minutes away from his place of arrest.

Immigration said all persons, including the male in question, were transported to the Governors Harbour Police Station for further processing.

“Therefore, any assumption circulated in the media that Immigration Officers allegedly committed the criminal offence of ‘kidnapping’ is false,” Immigration said.