In the Bahamas, Haitians fear audit

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In the Bahamas, Haitians fear audit

Post by Guysanto » Sat Aug 11, 2007 11:28 am

Haitians fear audit

By By KRYSTEL ROLLE, Guardian Staff Reporter

krystel@nasguard.com

Members of the Haitian community on Monday expressed fear and concern about the upcoming audit that will be conducted this week by the Ministry of Immigration, some labeling the move as a "badly-disguised cover-up," despite the department's efforts to reassure persons applying for citizenship that the exercise is legit and will not be used to round up illegal immigrants.

"The minute you tell me that you are having an audit, you are telling me that you want to know how many Haitians are living in the Bahamas illegally," said Michael Telairis, a Bahamian-Haitian and pastor's aide at Victory Chapel church on Carmichael Road. He told The Guardian yesterday

that while the initiative could be a "good thing," he doubts that many Haitians would believe that the audit is just a simple exercise to assist them with obtaining citizenship. "They want to know where they [the Haitians] are staying, how many members are in their family and how many of those members are legal," he said, comparing the process to the impromptu bag searches that are conducted in airports. "It's a ploy."

Last week, Minister of State for Immigration, Elma Campbell, announced the government's intention to regularize the status of persons who have applied for Bahamian citizenship prior to April 30, 2007 and urged such persons to bring receipts and other documents to prove they had applied, to the C. R. Walker High School on Wednesday and Thursday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. At the time, she emphasized that the process was an exercise that would allow immigration officials to conduct public audits of applicants for naturalization.

"It is not by any means an immigration round-up or any such law enforcement exercise," she stressed, urging all concerned to take advantage of the opportunity to regularize their status in The Bahamas.

But it was a later statement that Campbell reportedly made about the upcoming audit, which sparked a distrustful and lingering feeling for many Haitian nationals like Telairis and Jean Ricot Garcon, when Campbell emphasized that "the government will put the national interest of The Bahamas and the Bahamian people first."

However, Immigration Minister Tommy Turnquest last night maintained that the initiative is not a ploy, nor an attempt to round up immigrants.

"We don't want them (immigrants) to be fearful and we might have to find a way to relieve their fears," he said, indicating that their actions will prove his claims.

Meanwhile, Telairis said the government should concentrate on clearing up the citizenship applications already in their possession and deal with the backlog before inviting people who have already applied to bring paperwork that should already be in their system.

"That will only cause them to pile up more paperwork. Process them, move them out of the way and when you've moved them out of the way then you could say, 'Okay let's have a meeting with everyone who has not been processed yet.' Clear all the backlog, so we can have nothing except new applicants," he advised.

Additionally, he argued that the government has done nothing to prove that they can be trusted. "Had they (the government) shown me that they are looking at the applications that are already there now and are processing them first, and then they call everyone else to come and deal with their situation, then I can understand that," he said.

Haitian national Jean Garcon agreed with Telairis, as he has yet to receive any feedback from the Dept. of Immigration after applying for his citizenship in 1995. "When I go there they tell me I have to bring the paper for my property and I tell them, 'How can I buy property when I don't have citizenship?'" He said. "They don't want to help me, because I told them that I cannot get the lot if I am not a citizen,"

But even though Garcon's work permit became null after his employer died a month ago, he believes that he will receive the help that he needs at tomorrow's audit and will still attend the exercise in an attempt to regularize himself.

"I am not scared," he said. "I have five children here. All of them were born in The Bahamas. I was here since 1980. I will go on Wednesday," he said.

Garcon's mother, Teresie Germain, who has been here since 1970, applied for citizenship in 1997. But according to her, nothing has been done. "I want to be a Bahamian citizen too," she said.

Another Haitian who did not want to be named, said he will not participate in the audit, even though he has an outstanding application. "All they want to do is round us up and ship us out," he said. The Haitian who claimed that he was born in The Bahamas, said he has been unable to receive citizenship for a number of years, even though his parents migrated here more than 25 years ago.

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The Immigration audit

Post by Guysanto » Sat Aug 11, 2007 12:03 pm

The Immigration audit

Every Haitian national who is residing in The Bahamas legally should welcome the immigration audit being conducted by the Government to facilitate the processing of applications for naturalization or registration as citizens of The Bahamas.

Why there reportedly is widespread concern among the Haitian community that this initiative is a round-up exercise in disguise boggles the mind. Haitians who are long-time residents of The Bahamas and those who were born here to Haitian parents have been agitating for years to have their status regularized as Bahamian citizens, and now that the Government has embarked on a program that will assist in doing just that, they should be jumping up and down with joy in anticipation of their long-held dreams becoming a reality.

What's more, those Haitians who are here legally should want the Government to know their status and should have no reason to fear letting their status be documented. Even if the audit is a prelude to a round-up exercise, however, what's wrong with trying to put in place a plan that would help to save the Government hundreds of thousands of dollars annually? Indeed, so far this year, more than $700,000 have been spent on repatriating illegal immigrants to their homelands, the majority of whom were Haitian nationals.

But what must not be lost in this whole debate about whether there is a hidden motive behind the immigration audit is the fact that it is not geared towards only Haitians. As Elma Campbell, the Minister with responsibility for Immigration noted last week, the audit seeks to identify all individuals who have made applications for naturalization or registration as a citizen of The Bahamas prior to April 30 and whose applications remain outstanding. This includes Europeans, Jamaicans, Trinidadians, and persons from every other country who want to permanently call The Bahamas home.

The Haitian angle is being played up because it just so happens that this is where the vast majority of the illegal immigrants in The Bahamas come from. But there are Europeans who came to The Bahamas on holiday or were contracted to work at a particular job for a set period of time and decided that they wanted to stay and did. They tend to blend in more easily than the Haitians because of the support they receive from fellow Europeans and even some Bahamians.

You can bet your last dollar that if there are among this group persons who have been here long enough to be considered for Bahamian status, they were in the front of the line at C.R. Walker High School yesterday when the doors opened at 10 a.m. for persons who have applied for citizenship to register. They know that all this nonsense about the stage being set for the round-up of illegal immigrants is simply that – nonsense.

Certainly, it would behoove those Haitians who are in The Bahamas legally to heed the advice offered by Haitian Ambassador Harold Joseph, who was quoted in an article on Wednesday in The Guardian as saying that it would be wise for the Haitian community to participate in the audit and to "collaborate with the government because if you don't, after that you cannot complain and say they (the government) are not taking care of me."

That certainly is very sound and good advice that all Haitians living in this country legally should heed, and let those that are not here legally do the worrying about whether the Government is preparing to stage a round-up. They are the only ones who indeed do need to worry.

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