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UNHCR issues incredible charge and moves to reclassify Haitians fleeing home

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

The Caribbean, June 6, 2022 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has officially called on all nations in the region to do their part in rescuing Haitian migrants and allowing them “unobstructed and prompt access” to access asylum procedures.

The UNHCR says the call was prompted after a vessel carrying over 800 Haitians, trying to get to the US turned up in Cuba instead because the its captain abandoned the boat and left it and its passengers adrift at sea.

While many Caribbean nations have nationals who brave the journey across the ocean for a better life as the situation in Haiti grows more unstable, Haitians are taking the journey more than ever.  The number of Haitians now interdicted at sea between October 2021 and May 2022 is 5,003 Haitians.

Triple the 1,527 interdicted in 2020-2021.

The UNHCR says a “Search and rescue at sea is a legal and humanitarian imperative, and those rescued include refugees and others in need of protection. Coordination, solidarity, and responsibility-sharing are crucial in responding effectively and ensuring that people in need of international protection are not returned to their country of origin, and the dangers they have fled.”

But the situation is not always so cut and dried: hundreds of Haitian migrants trying to escape hardship set out on the seas, many of them for the closest land masses they can find, usually  The Bahamas, The Turks and Caicos and the Florida Keys.

The entire state of Florida is 170,312 kilometres squared about 12 times the size of the Bahamas which sits at 13,880 km². The Bahamas in turn is just about 14 times larger than the Turks and Caicos.

Because of their location all three are prime locations for Haitian refugees but the size factor between the three greatly affects the ability to facilitate asylum seekers.  One of the most recent migrant interdictions by the US Coast Guard on May 9, 2022 revealed 212 migrants likely headed for the TCI according to the Coast Guard.

Another recent boat reported by the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force which made landfall on the island of Providenciales held 110 migrants; that was May 19th.

Seven days prior to that on May 12th a boat with 129 migrants was stopped as it made its way into Turks and Caicos waters.

Over the Queen’s Jubilee Holiday weekend, this past four days, there were reports of as many as three interceptions; one count got up to 170; the remaining two were just over 100 souls aboard. All taken into custody, all repatriated at the cost of the TCI public purse.

The UNHCR says it will work with governments in the region to support the response and reception of arrivals at their borders but noted that, “Receiving states have the first line of responsibility in protecting those who may have well-founded fears of persecution in their country of origin. It is vital to ensure that arrangements for disembarkation of those rescued do not result in summary return, and that they have access to procedures to have their claims assessed before being expelled or deported.”

The reality goes without saying, the Turks and Caicos’ land area will not allow it to facilitate the large numbers of migrants who need asylum and who make the perilous journey weekly.  The situation is similar in The Bahamas.

The UNHCR for its part has promised that it will “support international human rights and refugee law, while respecting national security concerns and state sovereignty.”

This is a promise that absolutely must be upheld as without active concern for the welfare of receiving islands what is already a bad situation may swiftly become worse.

The size, economic capacity, social welfare systems and other areas must be addressed before any concrete decisions are made.  It must be that migrants’ health and safety are balanced with the disproportionate impact on the sustainable growth of countries which would become compelled to follow the treaty.

Bahamas News

124 HAITIAN NATIONALS REPATRIATED TO CAP-HAITIEN, HAITI

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#TheBahamas, May 21, 2024 – On Wednesday, May 15, the Department effectively executed the repatriation of a group of illegal migrants from the Lynden Pindling International Airport, New Providence to Cap-Haitien, Haiti.

At approximately 9:11 a.m., a Bahamasair chartered flight departed New Providence en route to Haiti with one hundred twenty-four (124) Haitian nationals onboard; a hundred and eight (108) adult males, thirteen (13) adult females and three (3) minors. The Department’s Deportation and Enforcement Units led the escort.

All security and health protocols were observed as the safety and welfare of our officers, law enforcement counterparts and migrants remain the highest priority.

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Introducing The Bahamas Cannabis Authority; Marijuana Bill tabled by Darville

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Garfield Ekon

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, May 20, 2024 – A medical marijuana industry is set for establishment in The Bahamas, following the tabling of the Cannabis Bill, 2024, in the House of Assembly, by Minister of Health and Wellness, Hon. Dr Michael Darville, May 15.

The Minister said objective of legislation is to set up a framework to establish The Bahamas Cannabis Authority, and to regulate the of importation, exportation, cultivation, processing, manufacturing, producing, sale, possession, distribution, and use of cannabis.

He told the Assembly that the law represents a thoughtful and balanced approach and was driven by a duty to act as he referenced the number of Bahamians who are battling cancer and in need of alternative treatments for pain management and other related issues.

“The legislative package, the Cannabis Bill, 2024 is designed to introduce a controlled system of cannabis use in medical treatments. The bill establishes the Bahamas Cannabis Authority.  A regulatory body overseeing all aspects of cannabis management and cultivation and distribution.  The authority’s mandate is to ensure that cannabis production and use are safe, controlled and effectively integrated into our health care system,” Minister Darville said.

Adding that the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill, 2023 that he also tabled, reclassifies cannabis by removing it from the dangerous drug list, now recognises its potential for medical use, he said the change aligns “our nations laws” with evolving global perspectives on cannabis.

The new law makes provisions for the licensing of cannabis handlers across various aspects of The Bahamas, and Dr. Darville said the licensing is structured to prioritise Bahamian ownership, with provisions ensuring that significant control remains in the hands of Bahamian nationals, fostering local entrepreneurship and economic benefits “for Bahamians across the country.

“We are here to make a difference, to enact change, remove years of stigma and transform lives by offering alternative treatments by way of medical cannabis.  The legislation before us offers a careful, considerate approach ensuring that we prioritize the wellbeing and safety of our citizens. Let us move with compassion,” he said.

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Pinder announces Trial by Judge Alone, New Courts, Harsher Penalties in Judicial Reform legislative Package

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Garfield Ekon

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, May 20, 2024 – The Bahamian Government has moved to open new courts, increase penalties for serious and violent crimes, as part of its reform of the judiciary to create efficiency in the system, and gang reduction efforts.

Outlining the administration’s legislative agenda on crime reduction, and judicial reform, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Senator, the Hon. Ryan Pinder said in the coming months there will be the opening of the juvenile and family courts allowing “us to bring on new judges for criminal and civil matters.

“We also anticipate establishing this year a commercial court that will be focused on hearing commercial disputes to ensure that the pace of business is not impaired by delays in trials,” the Minister said while addressing the Senate on May 15.

He was presenting the second reading of the Trial by Judge Alone (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 2024 and The Supreme Court (Amendment) Bill, 2024, which allows for the Supreme Court (Criminal Case Management) (Amendment) Rules, 2024.

Senator Pinder said the bills are in line with the commitment of this Government to ensure that the necessary laws are in place to facilitate the “timely and effective” administration of justice.

Stressing that the administration have been working hard this legislative session to put in place the improvements in law to address the judicial system as well as the treatment of bail for an accused, and ensuring stiff penalties for major criminal violations, he said  the Government have passed a series of legislation to facilitate trials and prosecution of criminals.

“I would suggest that we have done more on the legislative front than any former administration to address crime, and we are not done.”

“The Magistrates (Amendment) Bill increased the financial thresholds of the jurisdiction of a Magistrate to hear certain matters and adjusted the maximum penalties. The broadening of the jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court is intended to rebalance cases between the Supreme Court and the Magistrates Court in order to relieve the volume of minor disputes from the calendar of the Supreme Court,” he said.

For the magistrate’s court, he said, it is many instances the primary court for many civil and criminal cases, and especially in civil matters operating more of a small claims court, and the jurisdictional limits increased had not been adjusted in many years, and the operation of society has outpaced their limits.

The Court Services Bill empowers the judiciary to operate autonomously from an administrative point of view, by taking away oversight by central Government, thereby removing the bottleneck caused by the current system and providing further judicial independence.

For the Supreme Court (Amendment) Bill, it increases the maximum number of Supreme Court judges from 20 to 25, increasing the capacity to conduct trials in the Supreme Court by 25%.

“It is the Government’s intention that this not only contribute significantly to concluding the backlog of cases but will also give the Chief Justice the flexibility he requires to better allocated judges through the courts,” the Minister said.

The Trial by Judge Alone (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 2024, to grant a right of election to persons charged with indictable offences in the Supreme Court to be tried by a Judge alone.

“We believe this is a positive legislative reform to provide yet more support for timely trials in criminal matters,” the Minister said.

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