Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell said he has been spending much time in Grand Bahama where the issuing of the granting of work permits is “most vexing”.
While presenting his Mid-Year Budget Statement in the House of Assembly, March 11, 2013, Minister Mitchell said he intends to spend every Friday there in support of the work of the Ministry of Grand Bahama, until he has a sense that the immigration matter in Freeport is brought under control.
The Immigration Minister said that he has met with the Grand Bahama shipyard, Quality Services and will meet with BORCO, Club Fortuna and other businesses and businesspersons in Grand Bahama.
“We provide a support role to the Ministry of Grand Bahama and the Minister of Grand Bahama sits in on all Immigration Board meetings in Freeport.
“If the complaints continue, we have made it clear to industry in Grand Bahama that we will begin to refuse all requests for work permits cold turkey, unless there is a clear understanding of the need for policies to hire and train Bahamians.”
Minister Mitchell said one of the more fascinating conversations that he has had in Grand Bahama in relation to immigration policy is with a well-known FNM activist and relative of the Leader of the Opposition who argued strongly in favour of the programme that will enforce training as a requirement.
The Immigration Minister said the FNM activist argued that over the years since Pindling, the training regime, which allowed many Bahamians to take their places managing the companies in Grand Bahama fell away and the result is that in Grand Bahama, the programme has to start all over again.
“My concern as Minister is that in too many cases Bahamians are being planned out of investments in The Bahamas. The investor comes with the view that Bahamians need not apply and in the past 20 years, 15 of those headed by the FNM, the policies have tended on an official level to support that view.”
Minister Mitchell said, “I say no more and enough of it. The question I have is whether this next generation has the stomach for the push back, knowing that in many cases the push back will come from the very Bahamians you are seeking to help.”
The Immigration Minister also responded to concerns of those in Grand Bahama who have complained about the coming of foreign workers to the facilities of Quality Services who have just gotten a big job to build a device for a company in New Jersey.
“The Ministry of Grand Bahama has met with the company and warned them that they are to perform the promises that they made when we agreed to grant the work permit.
“This means that Bahamians on the job who were dismissed were to be rehired and there is to be a training programme. The permits will be revoked if the Ministry of Grand Bahama certifies that the conditions under which they were granted are not met,” Minister Mitchell said.
By Llonella Gilbert
Bahamas Information Services