#England, April 24, 2018 – London – The Bahamas’ Minister of Foreign Affairs the Hon. Darren Henfield walked into a busy schedule of Pre-CHOGM Meeting of the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers.
“It’s been a very busy agenda in London, straight from the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru (April 13-14) Mr. Henfield said.
The first thing the Minister did was chair a caucus between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the British Government on the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting — after Britain faced severe criticism over the treatment of the “Windrush generation” of British residents. The concern was that the British Home Office can “sometimes lose sight of the individual” or those who came to Britain from the Commonwealth after the Second World War.
Dubbed the ‘Windrush generation’ after the cruise ship that brought one of the first large groups of West Indians to Britain, anyone who entered the UK before 1973 was legally entitled to live in the country. However, despite having been in the UK for most of their lives, the group of British residents began to experience issues as a result of tightened UK immigration requirements.
It has seen some Windrush generation residents, who might never have felt the need to apply for a UK passport before, left without the documentation now required by officials.
Mr. Henfield, who is the incoming Chair of Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) of the Caribbean Community, said, “We are satisfied that the United Kingdom is doing all in its power to ameliorate these unfortunate circumstances.”
Mr. Henfield also attended a Commonwealth Small States meeting where issues discussed related to sustainability and environmental protection. Climate change is always a concern for Small Island Developing States such as The Bahamas: the country has suffered in the past three consecutive years from devastating hurricanes.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean estimated that The Bahamas suffered damage in the amount of $700 million as a result of the consecutive hurricanes.
“So we impress upon our Commonwealth brothers and sisters that there must be some other form of measurement to attract ODA (Official Development Assistance) and concessionary loans for rebuilding,” Mr. Henfield said.
He explained, “We have not yet finished rebuilding in the first cycle of three years and we are now approaching another cycle of the Hurricane Season and those loans and overseas development assistance are based upon your GNP and GDP per capita.
“Our GNP and GDP per capita, are in the same company with China but we always put forward this argument that there should be consideration for vulnerability because you can make all kinds of grand plans as a country to do the public good, [develop] infrastructure, to build schools, to build clinics and in one fell swoop (Irma) will come and displace all those plans.”
Mr. Henfield said he sensed a move by the Commonwealth to re-engage member states more deliberately, especially in the wake of Brexit. “This deliberate re-engagement by the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom can only bode well for The Bahamas and CARICOM as a whole. So, we are looking at a more sustainable and more prosperous and more secure future in the Caribbean region.”
The Commonwealth Foreign Ministers also discussed the issue of cyber security, a concern for The Bahamas, which seeks to participate in the digital economy and environment.
Mr. Henfield also attended meetings on ocean conservation and trade between the countries.
By: Lindsay Thompson