Fred Mitchell, Minister of Immigration and Foreign Affairs, held staging meetings with multiple agencies ahead of intensive immigration checks set for Abaco possibly “within the next 42 days”.
“This operation planned for Abaco will take significant resources and planning if it is to be successful in dealing with this vexing problem,” Mr. Mitchell said on February 16.
“It will require community support and it appears from our meetings at the start of the year on January 2 and 3 in Coopers Town, Marsh Harbour, Hope Town and in Sandy Point, that there is significant community support for the immigration effort.”
He said that the staging meeting took place with all government agencies in Marsh Harbour, Abaco on Friday, February 20 as “a precursor to the execution of special measures to be executed in Abaco to combat illegal migration in the coming weeks.”
He said “The agencies of the government are in the process of mapping out a schematic which will provide a set of options and choices from which the political directorate can decide. There will be a meeting with the heads of law enforcement agencies in The Bahamas to discuss the way forward including timing and logistics [on February 24].
He said that the government wants to conduct this “in an open and transparent way so that there can be no misunderstanding of what we intend and how we intend to execute our immigration policies.”
He said that “the aim of the policy is several fold: to ensure the integrity of the work force and its “Bahamianness”; to ensure the national security of our state and protect its cultural integrity; to regularize those who find themselves in a legal Catch 22 where appropriate; to exclude from the country those who have no right to live and work here.”
Mr. Mitchell emphasized that “this policy is not targeted at any national group. It is a generic policy.”
Abaco has two of the largest shanty towns in the country, The Mudd and Pigeon Pea, and the majority of its residents are believed to be of Haitian descent.
On Monday, Mr. Mitchell released year-end statistics that indicate that 40 per cent of Haitians apprehended during November and December 2014 – following the implementation of a stricter immigration policy – were repatriated.
He revealed that repatriations conducted as of December 2014 have exhausted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration’s deportation budget with six months left in the fiscal year.