STATEMENT| The Ministry of Labour & Immigration wishes to address the concerns and questions recently raised by the Leader of the Opposition regarding various immigration matters. In the interest of protecting individual privacy and preventing potential liabilities, specific names will not be disclosed. We caution those who have put individual names into the public domain, that breaches of rights to privacy may give rise to legal liability. Each immigration case is unique and handled on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the specific circumstances and information available at the time.
Firstly, a case was raised regarding a work permit that had expired, which led to an arrest and detention. We want to clarify that the arrest and detention report was uploaded on the same day the renewal application was enrolled. Despite the outstanding fees, the renewal was approved. Factors which were taken into consideration included the individual’s long-term residence in The Bahamas, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the lack of salary during the period of the pandemic. This discretion was exercised in line with practices of previous administrations under similar circumstances.
In a second case, an individual was reportedly approved for a permit while detained at the Detention Centre. We can confirm that at the time the decision was made, no information regarding the arrest or deportation was on file or in the system. Consequently, the Minister granted the approval without any contradictory information that might have otherwise affected the decision.
The third case mentioned involved an individual intercepted on a boat attempting to smuggle into the USA. The individual was charged, convicted and restricted. The Ministry of Labour & Immigration would like to clarify that this individual’s work permit was denied three times and was never approved.
In the fourth case, contrary to claims, the applicant was never detained. In fact, the individual held valid permits from 2015, renewed annually, and valid until 2023.
The fifth case involved an arrest for overstaying, which subsequently led to deportation. Despite the allegations, there was no arrest or detainee report on file or within our system for this individual.
In the case raised involving a Permit to Reside, despite claims that there was an approval after a conviction for overstaying and scheduled deportation, we found no document on file or within the system to indicate that this individual was convicted in court.
On a more general note, several concerns were raised about the approval process for permits. It is important to note that current practice at the Department of Immigration does not require employers to submit financial information. Therefore, it is challenging to accurately determine employers’ ability to sustain employment. In respect of the claim that approvals were granted without interviews being conducted, or unsupported by proper documentation, we consider that instances of such cases are highly unlikely, given the stringent checks and balances in place. However, we urge the Leader of the Opposition to provide specific instances for further investigation.
The approval of applications made while an applicant is detained at the Detention Centre is not illegal. There have been many occasions when individuals have been arrested while an application for approval is pending.
In respect of the claim that approvals have been granted to employers who, after investigation, stated that they did not submit the application, our records confirm that there have been incidents where work permits were approved without consultation with the Director or Minister. Upon receiving complaints from employers, these matters have been promptly addressed.
In respect of the claim that multiple work permits have been issued to individuals deemed as “facilitators”, our administration has been working diligently to curb this activity. We continue to monitor and take the necessary action. It is open to everyone to report wrongdoing wherever found, and so the Leader of the Opposition is welcome to provide any evidence he has of instances where approvals have been granted to unqualified applicants or employers.
In situations where detainees were ordered to be released, we urge the Leader of the Opposition to provide specific examples.
On the matter of citizenship, it is important to note that there are categories under the Nationality Act that allow individuals to be sworn in, without renouncing other citizenships. Regarding the issue involving the Chinese nationals, we confirm that the workers were in the country legally. Their employers were in the process of applying for their work permits. To avoid disruption to the major ongoing construction project on which they were working, it was considered futile to detain them overnight. The issue was promptly corrected the following day.
Concerning the questions put by the former Prime Minister about a specific citizenship application, we clarify that, at the time in question, the Minister was, in fact in Miami, not in Switzerland as previously stated in error.
The questions which have not been answered directly by the above did not raise anything of substance.
We remain committed to transparency, due process, and the rule of law in all immigration matters. We remain committed to maintaining an immigration system that is efficient, and fair, and respects the rights and dignity of all individuals.