Tuesday, February 24, 2015


By Oswald Brown:

Ms. Daphne Campbell

As a young journalist working at The Tribune in the early 1960s, I learned a great deal from Nicki Kelly, who was The Tribune’s senior reporter at the time, covering primarily the House of Assembly and matters of a political nature. She is a magnificent writer and I thoroughly enjoy reading her columns in THE PUNCH twice a week. This excerpt from her "BETWEEN THE LINES" column on Monday, February 23, 2015, should be “must reading” for Fred Smith, Jetta Baptiste, Daphne Campbell and other critics of The Bahamas’ very sensible new immigration policy.


“FOR someone who says he is committed to defending the rights of Haitians in The Bahamas, human rights activist Fred Smith seems determined to inflame public sentiment against the Haitian community. Mr Smith, president of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association, told a radio audience he sees nothing wrong with Bahamians of Haitian descent forming political parties to advance their interests.

“People have the right to freedom of association,” he said. “I see nothing wrong with people promoting self-interest in political parties for social benefits for different parts of the community. “Bahamians of Haitian descent are a large part of our society. So without doubt you will see people of that heritage as members of parliament and at the forefront of the political process,” he declared.

In the democracy that we purport to be, Bahamians of any descent should be free to participate in the political arena, so long as they are citizens of this country. In fact, such a mix should be encouraged, because it broadens the perspective of political parties. But Mr Smith is lighting a powder keg by suggesting Haitians form their own political parties specifically to advance their particular agenda to the exclusion of the national interest.

Such talk, considering the size of the Haitian immigrant population in this country, is bound to incite anti-Haitian sentiment among the rest of the population. With a population of some 370,000, the Bahamian economy cannot sustain the endless flood of immigrants from Haiti and the financial drain they represent on the country’s educational, medical, and social services.

The Immigration Department repatriated 4,628 foreigners last year, 3,814, or 82.4 per cent of whom were Haitians. This figure was 26 per cent higher than the 3.033 deported in 2013. So it is hardly surprising that Bahamians feel overwhelmed by the continuous influx of illegal Haitians into the country. Their frustration has been exacerbated by an unemployment rate hovering at nearly 16 per cent. Mr Smith should be careful, therefore, that in his thirst for publicity and delusional anxiety to martyr himself in pursuit of justice for Haitian-Bahamians, he does not deal their cause irreparable harm.”

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bahamians of Haitian descent in The Bahamas political arena

Smith: No Problem With Idea Of Haitian-Bahamian Political Party

Tribune Staff Reporter

HUMAN rights activist Fred Smith, QC, said he sees no problem with Bahamians of Haitian descent organising to form political parties, insisting that the country is on its way to this group of society emerging as parliamentary leaders.

Mr Smith, who is also the president of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA), told The Tribune yesterday that the stigma in the Bahamas that Haitians are of lesser value should be done away with.

He again chastised the Christie administration over its immigration restrictions maintaining that the government has encouraged a culture of hatred toward Haitians.

“Bahamians of Haitian descent are a large part of our society,” Mr Smith said. “So without doubt you will see people of that heritage as members of parliament and at the forefront of the political arena.

“I don’t see what is wrong with it. People have the freedom of association under the Constitution.

“I see nothing wrong with people promoting self interest in political parties for social benefits for different parts of the community.”

Mr Smith said it is time for the conversation in the country to focus on how immigration can create diversification.

He called on the government to follow the example of countries, including Canada and Korea; countries he said encourage different nationalities to contribute to shaping society.

“The Bahamas should have a different conversation. We should be saying yes to a form of immigration that creates diversity and multilingualism in the same way that Canada, Korea and China does.

“I think the Christie administration has done a great disservice. It is awful to be maligned and treated as second-class citizens.

“This kind of mentality that the Cabinet of the Bahamas is promoting is dangerous. We are hating our own people,” Mr Smith said.

He insisted that these latest comments should not be construed as supporting illegal migration.

Mr Smith and the GBHRA have been involved in an ongoing row with the government over its newest immigration restrictions. Mr Smith has likened the Carmichael Road Detention Centre to Auschwitz, a former Nazi concentration camp. He has also suggested that the Bahamas government is carrying out ethnic cleansing with the restrictions.

However, Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell on Monday shot back at those criticisms calling them a “highly personal campaign” against him.

“The question is this, which must be put to them: whose side are you on?” Mr Mitchell asked.

“The side of Bahamians and our national patrimony (or) are you siding with enemies of the country who would undermine the country’s security and well-being?

“These activists like to portray this as some poor migrants who are simply trying to make a better life, but increasingly this is a portrait of a sophisticated smuggling operation which is big business and in the process is threatening to swamp our country.”

With six more months to go in the fiscal year, repatriations conducted as of December 2014 have exhausted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration’s deportation budget.

Mr Mitchell has revealed that the Department of Immigration has spent around $1.7m to repatriate 4,628 foreign nationals in 2014.

February 18, 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

The proposed Credit Reporting Bill 2014 and the Credit Reporting Regulations 2014

Central Bank Informs Public on Proposed Credit Reporting Bill

By Kathryn Campbell - BIS:

Wendy Craigg
Wendy Craigg, Governor of the Central Bank of The Bahamas, addresses the Information Session.  (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)

NASSAU, The Bahamas -- The Central Bank of The Bahamas in conjunction with Bahamas Development Bank and Bahamas Mortgage Corporation hosted an information session on the proposed Credit Reporting Bill 2014 and the Credit Reporting Regulations 2014 at Melia Nassau Beach Resort, Cable Beach, Wednesday, February 11th.

Presenters included Wendy Craigg, Governor of the Central Bank of The Bahamas; Rochelle Deleveaux, Legal Counsel at the Central Bank of The Bahamas and Kevin Burrows, Senior Vice-President, CFAL.

According to the Governor, the purpose of the meeting was to inform the community of how the initiative will impact lending activities in the future and to inform customers and borrowers what to expect when the bill becomes operational. The credit bureau will be responsible for collecting information on consumers' borrowing and bill paying habits. The information is relayed to lenders to enable them to assess borrowers' credit worthiness.

The Governor opined that the planned introduction of the credit reporting system in The Bahamas is one of the most “transformational” initiatives in the financial sector.

She explained that a credit bureau is not only important for lenders, but it is also a utility to safeguard and help with the overall financial system. Operating without a credit bureau results in the lenders taking on “more risks,” she said.  “Experience has shown that persons are not always forthcoming about the total amount of debt they have,” she said. “They tend only to disclose what would allow them to qualify for the loan. So within our current system the person may obtain a loan from one institution and move on to another institution and this is within the formal working environment. Then they could get other consumer installment credit from the furniture store to the car store and none of the lenders are [aware of the scope of the consumer’s indebtedness]. This is so because there is no centralized system that allows for information sharing of credit.”

She said when individuals experience a downturn in the economy, loss of employment, reduced workweeks, they find it difficult to meet their debt obligations.

“It is only when the lenders have to reschedule the debts to more manageable terms that they get a better idea of the credit exposure of these individuals.”

The Governor noted that since 2005 there has been a “significant spike” in the level of loan arrears or bad debt. She said such high amounts place “stress” on the financial system and retards future lending.

“As the institution responsible for promoting the stability of the financial system, we have an obligation to ensure that the appropriate mechanisms are in place to mitigate any risks in the financial sector. The intent is not to prevent persons from accessing credit but through this information sharing session to support safer and more responsible lending,” she added.

February 12, 2015


Friday, February 6, 2015

Louby Georges on employment opportunities for persons of Haitian descent in The Bahamas

Descendants Of Haitians Finding It Harder To Get A Job

Tribune Chief Reporter

THE government’s new immigration policy has severely affected employment opportunities for persons of Haitian descent, according to activist Louby Georges, who charged that immigrants cannot fully comply with regulations because there is no supporting legislation.

With no legal framework three months after the policy was first introduced, Mr Georges, host of the Kreyol Connection, said affected persons have been fired and many remain in limbo because processing for the new requirements, namely the belonger’s permit, has not yet started.

“The Department of Immigration has an application form for something that does not exist,” Mr Georges said, “there is no such thing as a belonger’s permit.

“(Immigration Director William) Pratt told me in his office, he said ‘well to be honest the problem is that there is no legislation in place to support the belonger’s permit, so we are hoping that in the next two weeks we can present a bill to parliament and hoping it can be debated and then passed, and then we can start reviewing applications, and then we can start issuing (permits)’.”

“Persons are being laid off and fired as a result of an announcement made first on the floor of the House of Assembly from September 17, 2014. The official opposition is afraid to speak up on the issue because they don’t want to appear that they are siding with the Haitian community or siding with the immigrants,” he said, “because Bahamians generally think that Haitians or anything to do with Haitians is illegal or bad”.

Mr Georges spoke out against the immigration policy at a lecture hosted by the Bahamas Bar Association last week Thursday. He described the experience of persons born in the Bahamas of Haitian descent as “20 times” more severe than challenges faced by ordinary citizens, and charged that there were no measures to ensure that deported persons can access constitutional rights once eligible.

On November 1, 2014, the government introduced a wider immigration policy that, among other things, required every non-Bahamian living in the country to have a passport of their nationality with proof of their status to live and work in The Bahamas.

On Tuesday, Immigration Director William Pratt confirmed that the department has received many calls from concerned employers over the legal status of their employees under the new policy, adding that the matter is adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.

Mr Pratt stressed that it was not the department’s intention to jeopardise employment and encouraged individuals to seek assistance with his office for alternative options to secure a work permit.

“They are entitled to have a work permit, of course,” he said. “If they’re already employed and lived here all their lives, some employers have contacted us about persons in that category. Some of these persons, their citizenship is already before the board awaiting decision. So on a case by case basis, we wouldn’t object.”

Mr Pratt added: “Some people are already employed, Bahamians hired them based on their birth certificates. They were born here, grew up here, they were hired as Bahamians, but technically they are not. We will work on a case by case basis on those issues,” he added, “most of those persons their application is complete and they will be sworn in shortly.”

Mr Pratt explained that work and residency permits were always a requirement but over the years enforcement was relaxed. Since the new policy was introduced, he confirmed that “many employers” have called or sent letters to the department.

He added: “Those persons who are born in The Bahamas, according to our Constitution their citizenship is not automatic. So because of the constitutional law under the Immigration Act they require work and residence permits but over the years we never really enforced it, to the extent there were many persons who got jobs and were working and their application (was still being processed), but going on forward now, once this belonger’s permit comes on stream then it won’t be an issue because persons would have it from infancy.”

The resident belonger’s permit will give those born in The Bahamas who have a right to apply for citizenship under the Constitution some form of status while their application is pending, Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell said last December.

“It is only issued to the children of Bahamians whose parents got their citizenship pursuant to Article 3(2) of the Constitution and were born outside The Bahamas, or to those children whose parents were lawfully in The Bahamas and they were born here,” he said at the time.

February 05, 2015