“Migration is a global problem that is occasioned by natural disasters like hurricanes; flooding and famine; economic deprivation and war, the latter of which we have a striking example with the war in Ukraine, which has abruptly displaced millions of people,” said the Hon. Keith Bell, Minister of Labour and Immigration, at an ‘Essentials of Migration Management Training’ seminar, September 21, 2022 at UB’s Harry C. Moore Library.
“The influx of irregular migrants to The Bahamas is one of our country’s biggest challenges,” he said. “It has existed for decades and poses a risk to our economy, our health care system, our educational institutions, our environment and the social fabric of our society.”
The largest numbers of irregular migrants to The Bahamas come from Haiti, but in fact they arrive from all over the world: China, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Africa and, increasingly in 2022, from Cuba.
“With the assistance of the United States Coast Guard, irregular migrants are apprehended and detained each week. Indeed, it would be true to say that they never stop coming.
“Whether they are using The Bahamas as a transit route to get to the United States, the fact remains that they are daily found in our territorial lands and seas. The statistics for the weeks from 29th August – 11th September, 2022 revealed that 201 migrants were placed in the Detention Centre during that two-week period.”
Minister Bell continued: “It is a complex situation that is very emotive especially when we experience the tragic deaths of migrants at sea. This has proven to be a touch point for all governments in the modern Bahamas. In my government’s ‘Blueprint for Change’ we expressed our commitment to progressive immigration reform to protect our borders and allow the orderly growth of industry.
“Migration and irregular migration are issues that we in The Bahamas will continue to grapple with indefinitely and possibly for time immemorial.”
Minister Bell said, therefore, it is absolutely necessary that those of us, who must interact with migrants on a regular basis are educated on the foundations and principles of good migration governance and management. The Government and its employees must lead the way in the humanitarian and orderly treatment of migrants, while upholding the laws of the land.
Minister Bell who opened the three-day seminar told participating officers to fully engage in the discussions. Some topics included migration and development; migrant smuggling; and trafficking in persons. The workshop was hosted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with UB and the Ministry of Labour and Immigration.
He thanked the IOM and its sponsor the US Embassy for facilitating the workshop, which “I expect to be offered to all Immigration Officers and even Customs and Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers in the coming months.
By STIRLING STRACHAN/Bahamas Information Services