GBHRA brands Bahamas new immigration policy 'institutional terrorism'
By Paco Nunez
Nov 18, 2014 - 11:37:55 AM
GBHRA: government’s new enforcement policy is illegal, immoral and designed to
strike fear into the Haitian-Bahamian population
The harsh new tactics being
used by immigration officials have been denounced as illegal, immoral and
designed to strike terror in the Haitian-Bahamian community.
Fred Smith, president of the Grand Bahamas Human Rights
Association (GBHRA) charged that the government’s mass round-up policy is unconstitutional and a flagrant
violation of the fundamental concept that individuals are innocent until proven
“It can only be described as institutional terrorism, if by that
term we mean an inhuman and degrading policy designed to strike fear in the
hearts of an entire community,” Smith said. “They are
breeding ‘Haitian hatred’, racism and discrimination. It seems The Bahamas is
now into ethnic cleansing.
“The GBHRA has nothing
against immigration officers detaining those they have good reason to believe
are in the country illegally, and subjecting them to the process outlined in the
constitution for anyone suspected of breaking the law.
“However, this draconian
business of wholesale round-ups in the dead of night, indiscriminately casting
a net over entire sections of the population – both innocent and guilty alike – and then sorting illegal immigrant from lawful resident after
the fact, is downright criminal.”
Countless innocents caught up in such raids over the
years have been subjected to lengthy detention periods in hostile and
unsanitary conditions, and even mistakenly deported to Haiti, Smith said.
“These are people who
have a legal right to be here, who are arbitrarily ripped away from their
normal life –
their bank accounts, which they are not given a chance to access; their
property, their possessions, their jobs, which they are forced to abandon.
“The Bahamas does not need to violate people’s fundamental rights in
order to enforce its immigration policies. We cannot throw out the baby with
the bathwater,” he said.
The GBHRA president, one of the foremost attorneys in The
Bahamas, pointed out that Haitians, both legal and illegal, enjoy the same
constitutional rights as everyone else while in the country.
These include: the right to bail and an attorney if
detained in connection with an alleged criminal offense; the right to be
treated as innocent until proven guilty; and the right to a proper trial with
punishment, in this case deportation, only following upon conviction.
cannot act as judge, jury and executioner,” Smith said. “There is a clearly prescribed process for applying the laws of
The Bahamas that protect the rights of the individual at all times.
“Sadly, rather than applying
the law properly on a case-by-case basis, this new policy of home invasions, of
totally illegal road blocks and check-points, seems designed to create ‘shock and awe’, to send an
intimidating message to the Haitian-Bahamian community. And it’s working – some have abandoned
their homes and even their children at the approach of the government’s Gestapo squads.”
Smith noted that many of the “bully tactics” now being
used by the Immigration Department have already been declared illegal by the
courts. These include: arbitrary home invasion, detention and deportation; stop
and search exercises; and the requirement that immigrants must prove on the
spot that they have the right to be in the country.
“The burden of proof is
not on the immigrant,” Smith said. “There is no legal requirement for a Haitian or anyone else
living in The Bahamas to travel with their work permit or other form of
identification. No officer of the law has the right to detain anyone for
failure to produce the same, and any policy that includes such provisions is an
outright violation of our laws.
“The Bahamas is not
Guantánamo Bay. We do
not simply detain people without due process and the legal authority to do so.
The GBHRA calls on the government to cease and desist from this inhumane policy
immediately, and replace it with one that is in accordance with
constitutionally-mandated due process and the rule of law.”
The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his/her
private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of
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