OAS calls for Haitians to come together, raises concern about new Bahamas immigration policy

The assistant secretary general of the Organization of American States is calling on Haiti’s politicians to set aside their differences so that long delayed legislative and local elections can take place as soon as possible.

“The time has come for all the leaders, especially the political leaders, the executive and the parliament to understand that not talking to each other is not an option,” Albert Ramdin said during a visit to Miami Friday to attend the Caribbean Central-American Action conference. “The political leaders and all its sectors should understand their responsibility, and find ways forward.”

Ramdin, who plans to visit Haiti in a few weeks, was among several speakers at the three-day conference. Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie also attended, providing the keynote address during a Friday luncheon.

Christie spoke about the success of private-public ventures and briefly addressed a controversial new immigration policy that went into effect in the Bahamas on Nov.1. The policy has raised concerns for the OAS and human-rights groups.

“One of the things the Bahamas must do over the coming days is to provide a strong, clear brief on what the situation is in terms of the rules they are going to apply and the regulations that are in place now, how they are going to go about that in terms of their implementation so that there is clarity for everyone involved, not only in the Bahamas but also outside,” Ramdin said.

Human rights groups and Haitian advocates have said they are concerned about the detention of Bahamas-born children alongside their parents inside a Nassau detention Center. Bahamas officials, who have fired back at human rights groups, say no human-rights violations are going on.

“We are looking at some other ways and methods to deal with this issue,” Bahamas Immigration Director William Pratt told the Miami Herald. Pratt said of more than 300 detainees, 13 are children including two Cubans and 11 Haitians. The first repatriations of Haitians, now 292, could take place early next week, he said.

Christie told CCAA participants that illegal immigration is a “vexing problem” that has to be addressed. He also took issue with Florida state Rep. Daphne Campbell, who is calling for a boycott of the island-nation, saying she is “naive.”

“We are charged with having to police 100,000 square miles of ocean,” he said. “And we have as a challenge, people who have criminal enterprises who are smuggling people and drugs through our waters.”

Bahamas Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell will discuss the policy Saturday in Miami with the Bahamian community. Mitchell also is expected to meet with the OAS next week in Washington. Immigration officials say there are 11 children including two Cubans in the detention center.

Meanwhile, Ramdin says he remains concerns about events in Haiti where several people were injured and one died during an anti-government protest this week.

“Regretfully now we see a situation developing in the country which creates instability,” he said. “It is regrettable that people are losing their lives in this process,” Ramdin said.

President Michel Martelly and lawmakers have been at a political stalemate over an electoral law that the Senate has refused to vote on. Absent the law, elections cannot take place and on Jan. 12, the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, Martelly could end up ruling by decree.

Ramdin said Haiti’s future after Jan. 12, 2015 “is not to be determined by the international community.”

“There was a period in the recent history of politics in Haiti whereby the international community was much more engaged in the domestic issue of elections,” he said. “But I think we have passed that stage. We see today a Haiti that is taking more leadership on its own domestic issues and that is commendable. We have always asked for Haiti to be in charge of its own destiny.”

Related stories from Miami Herald