*Conflicting statements from government representatives
*Undocumented immigrants tipped off by announcement
*Many have integrated and blended into society
*FNM Administration mismanaged evacuation process
*Government urged to answer pertinent questions
The government seems to be acting on the cogent messages and questions within the recent press release issued by the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) entitled Government must address immigration quandary. This is apparent from the news headlines on the repatriation of undocumented shelter migrants, work permit holders without employment and enforcement of our immigration laws. Regrettably, the damage may have already been done due to initial actions, inactions and negligence.
It appears that the government has now had an epiphany that the laws of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas ought to be enforced. There have been varying and contradicting statements from the Prime Minister, Attorney General, Minister of Immigration, Senator, Department of Immigration and a government-appointed coordinator of hurricane relief efforts in Abaco within a one-week period. This demonstrates the lack of coordination, clear direction and message discipline within the Minnis-led administration.
Bahamians were puzzled by the announcement on repatriation of shelter migrants simply because common sense dictates that an announcement that undocumented immigrants in shelters will be repatriated would result in an exodus by persons wishing to escape deportation. Further, it was unlikely that undocumented immigrants from Abaco and Grand Bahama would have gone to shelters under the control and security of the government in the first place. Individuals that have broken our immigration laws are more likely to have integrated and blended into the general population following their relocation to New Providence and other islands.
The DNA maintains that the government mismanaged the evacuation and relocation process following the passage of Hurricane Dorian and has exacerbated a challenging immigration dilemma for our nation. We repeat the following unanswered questions to the government. Can they provide the Bahamian people with an update on the status of persons granted a temporary status following the 2010 Haiti Earthquake? The Minister of Immigration stated on national radio that undocumented migrants will be able to apply for legal status. Can the government clarify how it foresees undocumented migrants who are in The Bahamas illegally can apply for legal status?
How will the government differentiate from undocumented immigrants displaced by Hurricane Dorian that benefitted from the leniency from all other undocumented migrants that were not impacted by the storm? The temporary suspension of the repatriation policy by the government has now created a conundrum with major implications. Can the government also confirm to the Bahamian people how many persons were registered in shelters in the aftermath of Dorian, how many persons now remain and whether shelters have closed due to mass exodus of evacuees? Can the government confirm where these evacuees have gone and whether any have returned to Abaco or Grand Bahama?
The Minister of Immigration had stated on national radio that unemployed work permit holders from Abaco and Grand Bahama will be able to seek employment elsewhere. This would have meant that these individuals would join the unemployed labor force in New Providence and other islands. The AG and Department of Immigration have communicated a different position. What are we to believe and how will this stance impact employed Bahamians and the high unemployment rate? We would like to know how various government ministries and agencies such as education, health, national security, social services and the National Insurance Board will also be impacted.
The FNM administration has once again created a quagmire of epic proportions due to a lack of planning and an adhoc approach to governance. Our nation is faced today with myriad challenges relating to climate change, energy and immigration among others. These are serious times that require serious leaders with vision, integrity, courage and conviction. Unfortunately, we have lacked and are lacking such leaders in FNM and PLP administrations over the years. The DNA will usher in change that puts the best interest of Bahamians ahead of all others.
Arinthia S. Komolafe
Democratic National Alliance