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2005-03-18 20:25:52

British High Commission To Close On June 6

The British High Commission in Nassau will officially close on Thursday, June 30.

In order to prepare the office for the final closure, beginning April 18, the British High Commission in Kingston, Jamaica will begin to assume responsibility for services offered to the public. These include, passports, other fee bearing consular services and general inquiries, emergency assistance and visas.

Accordingly, officials at the High Commission assured customers that they will continue to receive high levels of service from the Kingston office.

In January, following his return from a meeting in Mauritius, Minister of Health and Environment, Senator Marcus Bethel, said that the government has been assured of the United Kingdom's continued support for the country and its programmes. He revealed that the cost of maintaining an Embassy here and in eight other countries played a significant role in the decision made by the Government of the United Kingdom.

"Because the concerns and issues of The Bahamas pale in comparison to other Caribbean nations, it were as if the need for an Embassy's presence was minimal, and in the face of cost cutting and the need to consolidate their overseas operations, The Bahamas was one of those nations that they did not feel they needed to have a day-to-day presence. However, they will maintain a presence in the Caribbean and there will be an office in Jamaica which will service The Bahamas. And there will be offices in the Eastern Caribbean, Trinidad and possibly Barbados," Mr Bethel explained.

"This is not just specific to the Caribbean, this is globally. They are contracting because it is expensive to maintain these with the security issues involved in maintaining an Embassy. It becomes very expensive for a nation," the minister added.

In an interview with The Nassau Guardian in Dec., British Deputy High Commissioner Steve Firstbrook confirmed that the change will occur in order to free up resources.

"Essentially, the change has been made in order to free up resources so that we can focus on priorities which are now more critical," he said. He pointed to the fight against terror and combating international crime.

Embassies are expected to close in Port Villa, Vanatu; Nuku'afola, Tonga; Tarawa, Kiribati; Asuncion, Paraguay; Maseru, Lesotho; Mbabane, Swaziland; Antananarivo, Madagascar and in Dili, East Timor.

By: KEVA LIGHTBOURNE, The Nassau Guardian

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