Monday, November 17, 2014

The Bahamas has a shantytown problem and illegal immigration problem ...due to the lack of political will and interest to remedy the same

The failure of the state and the illegal immigration issue

The Nassau Guardian Editorial

Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell held a news conference recently. He was responding to the comments of a man of Haitian ancestry that were aired on ZNS. The man made threats against Bahamians in an interview during a demolition at the Joe Farrington Road shantytown.

“Where [do] they want the people them to go?” the man asked.

“They want them to be homeless? They want them to go on the streets? You see what [I’m] saying. People like them force people to do bad things on the streets.

“…They have to understand that there are more Haitian-Bahamians in this country than Bahamians. And we [are] not scared. They don’t want to start something that they can’t finish.”

His statements were widely circulated via social media.

During the interview, the man added: “Like how I feel [I’m] ready to put the Colombian necktie on these [people].”

While that part of his statement was not aired, it was circulated on social media. The Colombian necktie refers to a method of killing that involves the victim’s throat being cut horizontally.

The matter was referred to the Royal Bahamas Police Force. Mitchell called for calm.

“All patriotic Bahamians and law-abiding non-nationals in this country should refrain from responding in this matter in a way which would approximate taking matters into your own hands. This is time for a reasoned response,” he said.

“There are agencies of the government that are responsible for protecting the integrity of The Bahamas, and they should be allowed to do this work. Suffice it to say that this matter is being taken seriously.”

Mitchell is right that the remarks caused outrage. Many are concerned about our illegal immigration problem when it comes to Haiti. Years of inadequate action by our state have led to shantytown proliferation across The Bahamas.

We have always known where these communities were. We drove past them. We commented on them. Yet nothing was done to permanently remove these illegal communities. Hence, they grew, and more and more Haitians came here because we are permissive of open illegality. We are the same way with numbers houses. Gambling remains illegal for Bahamians and yet the web shops were allowed to expand.

Despite the problem, Bahamians should not be unduly angry with Haitians. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. We want all people who come to our country to come here legally. All peoples who are in desperate situations in their homelands, however, attempt to flee to a safer, more prosperous place in order to save their lives. Many Bahamians are in the United States, legally and illegally, for example, in search of better lives. It is ultimately up to states to ensure their borders are secured and that their laws are enforced. Our state has done a poor job doing these things.

We have all the laws and all the security personnel needed to clear all shantytowns in The Bahamas. The problem has been political will and interest. During this term in office, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has made some moves to clear some shantytowns. This progress has been slow, however.

The Bahamas has a shantytown problem and illegal immigration problem because we have not cared to enforce our laws. If we did not allow people to build sprawling illegal communities, they likely would never have come here. As a people, we need to be angry with ourselves and with our governments for allowing lawlessness to prevail.

The shantytown called The Mudd, for example, is in the middle of Marsh Harbour. Despite the tough words of the immigration minister, it is likely to still be there when he comes up for re-election. We talk. We get angry. But we have failed to act decisively in this country when it counts.

November 15, 2014