The Minister of Labour of Immigration, the Hon. Keith Bell fielded questions from members of the media after meeting with local pastors of Haitian descent.
In response to whether the Department of Immigration can do more to expedite the citizenship approval process Bell said, “the reality is though for our country where we have a very significant influx of person into our country not just from Haiti, not just from Cuba, not just from Jamaica but all over the world. Persons applying for citizenship or persons who are born in The Bahamas to non Bahamian parents we have to ensure that immigration does its due diligence. And in many instances the delay is not necessarily the fault of immigration alone. We have to ensure that documents which are submitted are authenticated. We have to ensure that we get birth certificates. We know that there is significant fraud, there is persons taking on the identifications of others persons. We had the cases, as a matter of fact I have three cases on my desk right now.”
The Minister also commented on the issue of timelines for applications. He said, the government cannot, I don’t think that it is reasonable for government to necessarily put in place a timeline. You must accept the fact the citizenship is one of the highest things that a country can bestow on an individual. We’re talking about citizenship. We’re not talking about something else. So it is nothing to be taken lightly but I would think that we would want to ensure that we do our due diligence and as Bahamians that anyone that we would want to bestow this highest honour we want to ensure that we would have done everything we possibly can to ensure that we’re giving the right persons citizenship to our country. This is our birthright and so we have the right to protect it at all costs. And so that is all that we’re doing and we’re asking for those persons who have applied, and yes they may have an entitlement, but the reality is, the fact is, given the very large fraud, given the amount of documents that we get that we know are fraudulent we want to ensure that we do everything and that we are satisfied that we do not circumvent any processes.”