The Minister of Labour and Immigration, the Hon. Keith Bell responded to the findings of a report on human rights practices in The Bahamas released by the US State Department. The report spoke to multiple generations of people being stateless in the country.
Bell spoke to members of the media on the issue outside of Cabinet on Tuesday. He said, “I am satisfied to the level and to the extent to which we ensure our immigration laws and particularly our constitution, which empowers the government to bestow citizenship on an individual, I am satisfied that our laws are strong and we are following them. To the extent to which we will take our time to ensure that whomever comes to this country may be granted citizenship that is the responsibility and the authority of the government and we will ensure that we do our due diligence.”
Responding to the length of time it takes to receive an answer on citizenship the minister said, “we receive applications from a significant number of persons of different nationalities and we have to check with these states, these countries, to ensure that documents that we receive are authentic, they have to be authenticated. We have to ensure that where there is no duplication or imposters as we have seen in the past. Persons who have applied for citizenship they have taken on the identity of other persons. And it raises a fundamental question in this country, when are we going to introduce a national system of identification.”
The report also spoke to the government’s handling of the demolition of shanty town homes post Hurricane Dorian stating that efforts were not made to find accommodations for those displaced at the time. Bell says that the responsibility of the government is to Bahamians and that Bahamians found living in shanty towns will be provided for through the Department of Social Services. He further stated, “for persons residing in these shanty towns who are on work permits the responsibility if for their Bahamian employers to ensure that they have adequate living accommodations. And thirdly the category of irregular immigrants, they ought not to be here. They will be arrested and deported.”