Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell told Parliament that the Haitian diplomat Jean Victor Geneus had in a statement to the local media earlier this week indicated that the Department of Immigration was engaged in profiling Haitians in the Bahamas and singling them out for discriminatory treatment.
Mitchell also told lawmakers that the diplomat had indicated that the policies of the Bahamas require those who are born here and applying for a Belonger’s Permit to return home to apply and that there are 2,000 outstanding applications for Belonger’s Permits that are unresolved.
He said Geneus had also stated that two children were being repatriated who were not connected to any adult in Haiti and that in the nine months he has been in the Bahamas he has not had a formal meeting with regard to immigration matters.
Geneus is also alleged to have said that the immigration issue has not been solved by the policy of the Government dated November 1, last year and that there were a number of public policy suggestions that he thought would solve the problem.
But Mitchell said he has since asked the diplomat to have a meeting with him to discuss the matters saying also he had informed Geneus “that I could not allow those allegations to stand.
“They are all materially incorrect. There is no requirement for people applying for the Belonger’s Permit to do so outside the country. This policy that requires applicants to return home applies to work permits for first time applicants.”
Mitchell said there is “no policy of profiling of Haitians and the policy is not discriminatory toward Haitians,” adding “the policy is a generic policy which applies to all non-nationals.
“I also indicated that one would expect that in relations between friendly countries no such statement should properly be made which takes the other by surprise. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised me that there is no record of a request for any meeting by the Embassy on this matter since the Ambassador’s tenure.”
Mitchell said that the children about whom the Ambassador was concerned and who are being sent back to Haiti, came here in a boat with an adult who they described as their uncle.
“They were interdicted in Exuma on 12 July and are being sent back with the adult with whom they came. A fourth child arrived in Exuma on 4 August and will be returned with an adult that the child identified as a cousin.
“We cannot allow a trend to develop of sending young unaccompanied children here with the suggestion that the Bahamas is open to this violation of our laws,” Mitchell said, adding there are 598 applications for Belonger’s permits and 338 have been processed.
He told lawmakers that the meeting with the Haitian ambassador ended “I hope with an understanding that going forward there will be the usual mutually respectful relations in the spirit of comity which we have come to expect”.
He said that the policy that came into effect on November 1 last year “remains firmly in place and I sought the assurance of the Ambassador that the Embassy will encourage its citizens to comply with the laws of The Bahamas.
“In particular, I reiterated that all students need to get a permit to reside, to live lawfully in the Bahamas. That all who are born here to non-national parents should obtain the passport of their nationality and a permit to reside.”
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