The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights is condemning a new immigration policy in the Bahamas and calling on the island-nation to protect the rights of children regardless of their immigration status.
RFK’s statement on Friday comes after Haiti recalled its ambassador to the Bahamas and summoned the Bahamas’ ambassador in Port-au-Prince to condemn the new immigration policy that requires foreigners to show evidence that they have permission to live or work in the Bahamas, or otherwise face deportation.
“It was made clear that the Government of Haiti deplores the recent actions, and is calling on Bahamian authorities to respect the rights of Haitians in the Bahamas, especially the children who are being unfairly impacted,” Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told the Miami Herald.
On Nov. 1, Bahamas immigration conducted raids in Nassau, taking scores of undocumented immigrants into custody, many of them Haitian. Haitian activists told the Herald that 35 to 40 of the detainees were children, picked up with their undocumented parents.
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Elcott Colby, a government spokesman, denied the accusation.
“There were about 35 children among a group of migrants recently interdicted in Bahamian waters, but those children were kept with their parents until repatriation to their home country. Those children were among a group of 228 Haitians repatriated earlier this week,” he said.
“Further, the Department of Immigration has not received any complaints of inhumane treatment or abuse of illegal immigrants. It is the policy of the Bahamas government to enforce the immigration laws and policies of the Bahamas in a humane manner. ,” he added.
The RKC center, however, said the reports coming out of the country are cause for alarm.
Under Bahamian law, children born in the Bahamas to foreign-born parents are eligible for Bahamian citizenship when they turn 18; until that time, under the new policy, they must obtain a passport from their parents’ country of origin.
The center said Bahamian civil society has reported that children born in the Bahamas to migrant parents were given 30 days’ notice to apply for and secure a passport from the country of origin of their parents or face expulsion, despite the significant financial burdens this new policy imposes and with no consideration for an ordinary processing time of over two months to secure a passport in some cases.
“These new policies mean that thousands of children in the Bahamas now live in fear of arbitrary arrest or deportation. The Bahamas must immediately fulfill its obligation to protect children — no matter their status, and no matter their ethnicity,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center.
It wsa the second time this month human rights groups have condemned what they say is discriminatory treatment against Haitians. On Thursday, Amnesty International criticized the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court’s decision to withdraw from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights after IACHR found the Dominican Republic to be discriminating against Dominicans of Haitian descent.