Feb 27, 2023

Prime Minister Davis’ National Address tonight was deeply disappointing and failed to rise to

the moment that our country faces. He failed to address the gravity of our situation with practical steps. Beyond the usual government interventions, his administration intends to take short, medium, and long term. He spoke tonight, no doubt, seeking to head off the Opposition’s call for the Establishment of a Select Committee on Illegal Immigration and Migration and the protests and cries from various quarters for urgent government action on the Immigration matter.

The crisis The Bahamas faces relative to illegal migration has stretched the limited resources of The Bahamas severely. The Prime Minister seemed bashful to acknowledge the gravity of this. This decades old problem has been made substantially worse due to the contraction of our economy due to the devastation of Hurricane Dorian and the debilitating impact of COVID-19 and now the collapse of the Haitian Government.

His remarks failed to explain why his administration failed to stop new construction of unregulated homes on public and private land. This action was not hindered by the court injunction recently lifted. His claim of only one boat making it to shore was surely a result of bad information. However, even if it were true PM Davis must be aware that many migrants are flying into The Bahamas with visas and melting into the population because we have not done a stellar job in monitoring, tracking and interdicting such persons. This is precisely why he should have talked about strengthening such surveillance units, auditing all forms of visa issuance and work permits.

As usual, the PM loves to talk about government initiatives without referencing how he intends

to pay for them. More should have been said about The Bahamas’ international engagement with the following stakeholder-The Republic of Haiti, CARICOM (Are we committing to peace keeping forces and if so under what conditions, The OAS, The United Nations-UNDP, IOM, ILO, UNCTAD, UNDESA, UNFRA, OHCHR and The European Community.

There is a need to raise resources to address the gaps in our system and to build capacity to address the additional burden that illegal/irregular migrants put on our system.

We will not go it alone. We are on the frontline! Assistance with repatriation inclusive of resettlement assistance is crucial. The Bahamas may partner with specific agencies that help particular demographics in our country.

We expected to hear more about his Plan of Action to Halt and Reverse the establishment of unregulated communities throughout The Bahamas: We clearly need dramatic housing increase to make provision for housing ownership, rental and or leasing. Furthermore, we need urgent land reform, which is an urgent priority where Bahamians who have long waited for crown land and / or leased land for entrepreneurial and residential purposes. This is especially crucial given the fact that migrants are occupying such land illegally, having not followed any legal process. There is a need for careful studies of this issue (how many Haitian nationals are in the Bahamas,

how many have status and if so what type, what is the impact on our health and social safety

net, etc) so that we can make evidenced based decisions.

The Prime Minister must also address the backlog applications for work permits, visas, permanent residence, and citizenship in a careful, responsible, and transparent way. He must also have the courage to design policies and initiatives that address the employment gaps in The Bahamas in the blue and white-collar fields:

He should have signaled his intention to engage the population in a candid discussion and a thorough examination and debate about the pathways to Bahamian citizenship. PM Davis must be upfront about our need to lead a forensic audit of the work of government agencies whose work intersects with migration and immigration.

The Prime Minister’s address should have also made it clear that his plan addressed other migrants coming from other jurisdictions. Sadly, the brazen attempt to seduce the Haitian community before the election caused PM Davis to identify himself as someone other than a proud Cat Islander and now he must explain the laid back approach, while failing to act with a sense of urgency while being humane.

The Hon Michael C Pintard

Leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition Leader of the Free National Movement

February 19, 2023

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