“Given the challenging situations on the ground, the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Labour and Immigration and our partners continue to remain on high alert to detect and intercept persons seeking to enter The Bahamas illegally,” said Minister of Labour and Immigration the Hon. Keith Bell, in the House of Assembly on Wednesday.
Minister Bell said according to a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights who spoke on conditions in Haiti, “Since the beginning of the year, up to March 15, a total of 531 people were killed, 300 injured and 277 kidnapped in gang-related incidents that took place mainly in the capital, Port-au-Prince, according to information gathered by the Human Rights Service of the UN integrated Office in Haiti. In the first two weeks of March alone, clashes among gangs left at least 208 killed, 164 injured and 101 kidnapped.”
Whilst there is hope for conditions to materially improve, Minister Bell added, “The Government of The Bahamas is resolute in its position that the immigration laws will be enforced and violators will be returned to their home countries.”
The Department of Immigration continues to work diligently to protect the land borders, he said. “Special operations are constantly being executed, where we encounter persons, who are here illegally or who have overstayed their time.”
“I wish to take this opportunity to inform the public that our Immigration Officers are equipped with BITMAP devices, which share the biographic and biometric data of suspected individuals from literally all over the world: Europe, Asia, Africa, The Caribbean and Central and South America. We can track and detect criminals and criminal threats, who are trying to enter our territory either by land or by sea.
“Operation Strategic Patience – the special operation in Abaco launched earlier this year remains ongoing and has been strengthened through the deployment of additional officers.
“Operation Strategic Patience,” is the beginning and not the end of special operations on the Family Islands.
Since the 20th February, Operation Strategic Patience has resulted in the arrest of 82 persons from Abaco who have been charged before the courts:
• Thirty-four Haitians and one American were charged with illegal entry;
• Twenty-three Haitians and three Jamaicans were charged with overstaying;
• One Jamaican female for attempting to mislead an Immigration Officer.
“Of the eighty-three persons charged before the courts, eighty-two persons were convicted. I believe that this speaks to the hard work of the Immigration Officers in carrying out the required due diligence and investigations.”
Since the launch of Operation Strategic Patience there have been various requests for operations to be undertaken in other islands, he said.
“I would be remiss if I did not constantly express my gratitude to our partners in this fight. The Department of Immigration could not handle this situation alone. Therefore, we have a tripartite agreement with our uniformed branches of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Royal Bahamas Police Force, as well as our international partners, the United States Coast Guard.”
By STIRLING STRACHAN/Bahamas Information Services