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2005-12-09 22:04:25

Ingraham Slams Government Over Illegal Migration

Mr. Ingraham also referred to a visa "scandal" in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying it is likely only the tip of the iceberg.

During the third in a series of rallies that will take place before Christmas, former prime minister Hubert Ingraham said in Marsh Harbour, Abaco last night that weak government policies are contributing to the illegal immigration problem in the country.

Mr. Ingraham pointed to the recent fire in the predominantly Haitian shantytown known as the Mudd, conceding that there is no easy solution to the squatting and illegal immigration problems that have grown in the Mudd and nearby Pigeon Pea and elsewhere in Abaco.

"The situation in the Mudd gives us all pause," he said. "The problem is an old one and one which has become more complicated as Bahamians and Bahamians of Haitian extraction have joined the large immigrant families living in the Mudd and Pigeon Pea."

He said an acceptable solution to the dilemma would require good planning and strong leadership.

"We must first and foremost prevent the further expansion of these communities by preventing the construction of any and all new temporary shelters in these low lying unsafe areas," Mr. Ingraham said.

Following the fire in the Mudd last month which claimed the life of an elderly woman, Prime Minister Perry Christie announced that there will be no further expansion of the Abaco squatting community.

Last night, Mr. Ingraham said that resources must be dedicated to restricting the further increase in the number of illegal immigrants gaining entry into The Bahamas because it is those numbers that will continue to inflate the populations that occupy unsafe and unsanitary and illegally constructed dwellings in Abaco and other islands.

"Thirdly, the strictest observation must be given to our immigration laws and those found in violation must be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law," he said.

"This must include anyone seeking to facilitate visas, work permits or residency certificates for visitors and or illegal immigrants whose intention it is to remain in The Bahamas beyond the period authorized and persons knowingly engaging illegal immigrants; persons involved in the production of fraudulent immigration documents."

Mr. Ingraham also referred to a visa "scandal" in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying it is likely only the tip of the iceberg.

He was referring to recent allegations made by former Free National Movement Chairman and recently appointed Senator Carl Bethel who charged that there is political interference in the issuance of visas, and that the numbers of visas issued since the Progressive Liberal Party came to power in 2002 has shot up significantly.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service Fred Mitchell has said repeatedly that to his knowledge there is no visa scandal in his ministry and he challenged the FNM to take its "evidence" to the police.

Mr. Ingraham said, "I see in the press that the minister after much ado about whether a 'whistle blower' stole documents to provide to Senator Carl Bethel has admitted that his ministry is taking action to prevent 'brokers' from facilitating visas for foreign nationals. Since when did The Bahamas permit 'brokers' to obtain visas for visitors? And visitors from Haiti?"

The FNM leader also pointed out that Minister Mitchell has announced again that the government is close to signing a contract for the production of digitized passports and more secure visas.

"You might remember that within days of coming to office, the minister of foreign affairs announced that, in very short order, Bahamians would have digitized passports," Mr. Ingraham reminded.

"You see that project was well advanced by May 2002 and the new passports ought to have been in use for some time by now. Perhaps one day the minister will explain the reason for delaying the introduction of more secure travel documents."

By: Candia Dames, The Bahama Journal

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