OAS concerned about new Bahamas immigration policy

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor - special assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, November 20, 2014

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SECRETARY General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Jose Miguel Insulza has expressed concern about the Bahamian Government's new immigration policy under which non-nationals who are unable to show they have permission to live and work there are being arrested.


"I sincerely hope that we can examine the matter soon," Insulza told reporters and editors at the Jamaica Observer Press Club held at the newspaper's head office in Kingston yesterday.


Insulza said that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has not yet looked into the matter, but it has been actively requesting information.


"The Bahamas Government has issued a report, but there is talk of expulsion of people who are born in The Bahamas and that would certainly be wrong," Insulza said.


He noted that while every country has a right to dictate its own immigration legislation, the application of such rules should observe human rights principles.


The immigration policy, which came into effect on November 1, has come under heavy criticism from the Grand Bahamas Human Rights Association, which said the Perry Christie Government's mass round-up of non-nationals is unconstitutional and is breeding hatred, racism and discrimination against Haitians in that country.


The rights group said "the draconian business of wholesale round-ups in the dead of night, indiscriminately casting a net over entire sections of the population, both innocent and guilty alike, and then sorting illegal immigrants from lawful residents after the fact, is downright criminal".


Meanwhile, Insulza, whose term in office comes to an end on May 25, 2015, said the organisation is also concerned about the issue of migration in the region generally.


"We have the problem in the Dominican Republic, The Bahamas and we have had some problems in Trinidad and Tobago as appeared in the papers recently," he said.


According to the OAS head, there is the need for a consistent immigration policy and this must be dealt with as a high priority.


"It's by nature a hemispheric thing; if you don't understand immigration in the Americas you will have to deal with the whole spectrum and I don't think we have had a consistent policy on matters of immigration," he said.


He explained that the OAS issues a report every three years; however, the organisation has challenges in doing this because it requires getting the data from the respective countries.


"Our first report was about six or seven countries; the second one was about 16 or 17 countries. And now we expect to have one next year for the whole of the region. That report is showing something that was also said, but never too much, which is that immigration in the Americas is twice as fast in numbers than the rates of immigration all over the world," he said.


"So it is about time that we develop some policy on the matter. Of course, there are some countries with larger interest than others. There are some countries, not just the United States, but on its own scale, countries like The Bahamas and others that receive a lot of immigrants," he said.



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