Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told parliament last week that all irregular migrants in the country, regardless of their nationality, have until 31 December 2017 to return voluntarily to their country of origin, warning that after this time they will be pursued without respite, arrested and expelled from The Bahamas.
The statement by Minnis has caused fear among tens of thousands of Haitian migrants who live in an irregular migratory situation in The Bahamas and who fear the rigorous application of this policy, HaitiLibre reported.
The number of Haitians living in The Bahamas was estimated in 2014 at nearly 70,000 people (18 percent of the population) and between 20,000 and 50,000 of them were living in an irregular situation, according to the International Organization for Migration. The number of Haitian migrants on Bahamian soil is currently estimated at more than 80,000 people.
Minnis reminded all employers and residents in The Bahamas who employ irregular migrants that they also have until 31 December to regularize the status of their employees.
“I ask immigration officers to do their duty in a professional and humane manner. Those who illegally employ such migrants are legally responsible and will be prosecuted. We must be a country where the law applies,” he added.
Immigration minister, Brent Symonette, said there will be no amnesty or extension beyond the time limit granted to foreigners and that the government will in the meantime focus on renewing work permits and visas for those who have requested it.
Since November 1, 2014, all persons living in The Bahamas must hold evidence of their nationality and, in addition, certificates of identity issued to persons born to foreign parents who are lawfully resident in The Bahamas will not be renewed. Alternatively, a passport of their nationality of origin with a resident stamp will be required.