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Letter from PM Ingraham

February 11, 2010

The Prime Minister of The Bahamas has responded to the concerns/questions raised about the repatriation of Haitian migrants. I have posted the entire letter below – as published in today’s Tribune.

It is clear that repatriation will continue and is the “official” policy. Again, our voices are needed more than ever – we must continue our efforts to tell the government of The Bahamas what we think about migration policy. We must continue to call for temporary protected status for new Haitian migrants.

Published On:Wednesday, February 10, 2010

EDITOR, The Tribune.

THIS letter is in response to the article by your reporter Alison Lowe appearing in this morning’s edition of The Tribune (Tuesday, Feb. 9).

When the terrible earthquake struck Haiti’s capital city on January 12th, I announced on the following day that in light of conditions in that country in the immediate aftermath of the quake, the Bahamas Government would suspend its programme of apprehension of illegal Haitian migrants living in the country. As reported in the press, I said:

“The Department of Immigration will release from the Detention Centre those Haitians who are currently there and give them some temporary status until such time as things have changed.” I went on to say “If new Haitians come and we apprehend them before they arrive in The Bahamas or otherwise, we will have a different position to take.”

I also reported that all repatriation exercises had been suspended.

As a result some 102 illegal Haitian immigrants awaiting repatriation from the Carmichael Detention Centre were released and given temporary status allowing them to remain in the country for up to six months.

When I addressed a news conference on the January 17th, I reaffirmed my Government’s decision to suspend apprehension, detention and repatriation of Haitians found living illegally in The Bahamas. And, I noted that other countries like the US had done the same and were granting illegal Haitian nationals special temporary status. I also said the following:

“They (the US) have also, like us, (my emphasis) made it clear that no new immigrants from Haiti will be allowed in. The American and international media have already taken note of our decision.”

Hence, when 49 new illegal immigrants landed in the vicinity of Coral Harbour on January 26th, they were arrested, charged before our courts and subsequently convicted and sentenced to six months incarceration at Her Majesty’s prison.

According to press reports, the men are confined at the prison in Fox Hill; the women and three minor children are being detained at the Carmichael Detention Centre. It can be expected that they will all be repatriated to Haiti.

Most Bahamians will be aware of increased surveillance by both Bahamian and US authorities aimed at detecting boats seeking to depart Haiti since the earthquake with the intention of transporting illegal migrants to foreign countries. These increased surveillance efforts are meant to assist in containing the flow of undocumented migrants from taking to the seas on unseaworthy vessels and exposing themselves to still more danger.

When such boats are detected, they are escorted back to their home ports without them ever reaching a foreign port.

That was the case with the 78 Haitians detected by a RBDF patrol vessel while they were travelling on a Haitian sloop in waters off the Exuma chain last Saturday. Because their vessel was unseaworthy, the migrants were transferred to a RBDF vessel and they are being returned safely to their Haitian port. The US Coast Guard is assisting in this matter.

Nothing in the handling of this latest group of illegal immigrants is in any way contradictory to announced Government policy on the treatment of Haitians found in The Bahamas following the events of January 12, 2010.

Clearly, as events evolve in Haiti the response from The Bahamas will be adjusted to take changes into account.

I also attach a copy of the press release issued by the Ministry of National Security yesterday.

PRIME MINISTER

HUBERT A

INGRAHAM

Nassau,

February 9th, 2010.

Ministry of National Security release:

Haitian Immigrants

returned to Haiti

The Ministry of National Security has confirmed that on Saturday, 6 February 2010, 78 Haitian migrants were intercepted in waters near the Exuma chain when the sloop in which they were sailing was sighted by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force on a routine patrol.

Defence Force vessel HMBS P-45 spotted the 30-foot Haitian sailing sloop approximately 13 nautical miles southwest of Barreterre, Exuma. The Haitian migrants, 64 males and 14 females, were transferred from their unseaworthy vessel and taken aboard Defence Force craft P-45 and P-49.

The migrants, all of whom appeared to be in fair health, have been transferred to HMBS Bahamas. The United States Coast Guard is assisting the Royal Bahamas Defence Force in returning the migrants to Haiti.

The return of the migrants to Haiti is in conformity with enunciated policy that Haitian migrants coming to The Bahamas illegally after the earthquake will be apprehended and returned to Haiti.

February 8, 2010.

via The Tribune

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