No one is above the law, including himself, says recently appointed Director of Immigration Clarence Russell. His comments come as immigration officers battle claims of inhumane treatment by detainees, taken into custody during roundups and housed at the Carmichael Road detention center and immigration safe houses. Consequently, the department is moving to enhance transparency to safeguard the integrity of its operations, through the use of the body, and vehicle cams. Mr. Russell says where there is human interaction, the issue of inhumane treatment will arise. Mr. Russell says “the public can rest assured that with the inception of our complaints and investigation unit, matters will be investigated, all matters will be investigated and if our officers are found wanting, then the law will take its course as well.
The Department’s operations have also been challenged following the outcomes of several high profile court cases, most notably that of Jean Ronyy Charles, a Haitian national who was repatriated and then ordered returned to The Bahamas. Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hilton ultimately ruled Jean Charles was unlawfully detained and ordered his release. Hilton made similar rulings this week, resulting in more releases of immigration detainees. The Government is appealing Jean Charles’ case, and despite the legal battle, Russell says officers are not discouraged.
Russell continued by saying “in all instances, the immigration department takes our legal advice from the Honorable Attorney General in whom we have full confidence as the chief law enforcement officer in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and so we are not deterred in any way from doing that which we do, but we will do it so long as I am the director, within the confines of the law”. While the department continues to face intense scrutiny, Russell says it is important that he encourages his officers, to remain focused on their roles. “They cannot be focused on what is going on in the press. Once we are doing our jobs, we are confident that those who sit in authority would provide the necessary legislation for us to do our jobs within the confines of the law”. Russell says immigration officers will continue to carry out their duties humanely, without fear or favor.