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Haiti - Social : Bahamas will arrest illegal Haitians sheltered in churches
Recalling that after the passage of Hurricane Dorian, the Minister of Immigration, Elsworth Johnson, had clearly stated that the churches of the affected islands could not be used as a means of circumventing the law under cover of shelter for refugees illegal or undocumented.
"WWe want to send a stern warning to those persons who are harboring those persons — deliberately I say harboring because harboring of illegals is a criminal offense, punishable by law. If we find, irrespective of where you are harboring them, that you are in fact involved in such a criminal act, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," assuring "the public to know that don’t think for a minute that the immigration department is unaware of who is here. At the appropriate time, the appropriate action will be taken."
He did not name the churches or the non-designated shelters he was referring to. However after the passage of the Hurricane Dorian many legal and illegal displaced chose to stay in Abaco and found refuge in churches including sixty hosted in the "New Haitian Mission Baptist Church" in Treasure Cay. In addition, refugees in the "AB Apostolic" and the "New International Gospel Mission" in Marsh Harbor have reportedly been warned by the authorities to leave because the churches are not designated post Dorian shelters.
Reacting to the intentions of the Government of the archipelago, Bishop Delton Fernander, President of the Bahamas Christian Council, called on the Government to establish a liaison between the immigration department and the churches of the affected islands and condemned reports of migration operations in the churches as a " desecration of the sanctity..."
Asked if the Ministry will soon be inspecting these places to identify those who are not allowed to be in the country, Russell said, "I daresay that we are no longer just patrolling the streets and doing the ordinary. In other words, we too are intelligence-led [...] it stands to reason that we know who is in our country; whether you have entered legally and/or illegally, we’ve have some idea — hence the success rates that we’ve had of recent in taking undocumented persons into custody https://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-29281-haiti-social-340-haitians-deported-from-the-bahamas.html »
While noting that Haitians are the predominant group seeking to enter the archipelago illegally. Russell said the department does not make an ethnic difference in law enforcement adding, "While most of the emphasis in our country is on one group of persons, the immigration department doesn’t have the privilege of just looking at one group of persons. Yes, predominantly there are one particular group of persons who come to our shores illegally."
Note that the IOM in 2015 estimated that 18% of the Bahamas population was composed of migrants living in irregular migration territory, including 20,000 to 50,000 Haitians, a number that has since increased considerably.
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