Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Haitian-Bahamians and Bahamian Citizenship

Haitian-Bahamians Want Citizenship

The Bahama Journal

Three young Haitian-Bahamians stood before the Constitutional Commission this past Friday making recommendations specifically surrounding children born to Haitian parents receiving citizenship.

The trio, representatives from Univision, a civic organisation geared at spreading equality amongst cultures, presented the challenges that face children born to Haitian parents in The Bahamas.

President and Founder of Univision Lovy Jean said the Bahamian Constitution has no security for those children who for 18 years have no nationality.

“As stipulated in the Constitution, the group of young people born to foreign parents in The Bahamas is not afforded the right of automatic citizenship. Therefore a formal application must be made to the Department of Immigration for that person to become a citizen. That process is normally two to six years. If you’re lucky during a General Election you’d get it right away,” he said.

“You’re in this internal conflict because you don’t know where you belong. You can’t go to school, you can’t get a scholarship because you simply don’t have a nationality. In the schools down here, you’re not a Bahamian, your parents are Haitians. But back home in Haiti, you’re not Haitian; you were born in The Bahamas. So imagine what that must be like for someone to go through that for 18 years and more until they gain citizenship.”

Mr. Jean recalled the scholarship opportunities he had to pass up on all because he did not have a passport, Haitian nor Bahamian.

Mr. Jean’s sister, Janette Jean, is the co-founder of Univision and says she believes that it’s time The Bahamas begins to benefit from the investment it makes in the thousands of children it educates and provides free healthcare for.

“The Bahamas for the past years has been investing in its people, all because they want to see a better future. The Bahamas invests in both Bahamians and foreigners. The Bahamas invested in me, and they do it for a return. Sadly, because of the present laws and policies that we have currently in place, it is difficult for The Bahamas to gain the returns that they should in the foreigners that they invest in,” she said.

Undoubtedly the portion of their presentation that came as a surprise to the Commission was the group’s recommendation of setting a date, before which every child born in The Bahamas to foreign parents would become a Bahamian citizenship, and after which every child born in The Bahamas to illegal parents would be subject for deportation.

The group acknowledged that this method would not sit well with their fellow Haitians, but Ms. Jean believes that this would be the ideal way of addressing the illegal immigration problem in The Bahamas.

“We have an illegal immigrant problem. I consider The Bahamas my home and I want to protect it. This is a decision we have to make and the line must be drawn somewhere. You must be fair to both sides,” she said.

Their recommendation also included children born to parents outside The Bahamas, saying that the parents should be able to decide which nationality the child should be given as well as they recommended that spouses of Bahamian citizens of any gender be given the opportunity to apply for Bahamian citizenship regardless of their gender.

Department of Statistics’ 2010 census shows that there are 39,144 Haitians living in The Bahamas.

However, these figures do not include the undocumented or illegal immigrants.

18 March, 2013

Jones Bahamas