10, December 2020
IMMIGRATION Minister Elsworth Johnson said yesterday he is not aware of any abuses happening at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre despite claims that several asylum seekers are being deprived of certain rights in contravention of Bahamian law.
However, he noted that if such injustices are being done, those workers responsible will be dealt with accordingly.
His comments to the press came after Human Rights Bahamas over the weekend raised alarm about the alleged illegal detainment of several Cameroonians at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
According to the activists, the group sought to take refuge in the Bahamas after fleeing war-torn Cameroon in Central Africa out of fear of their lives after having experienced many injustices there.
Rights Bahamas claimed the Cameroonians have been detained at the Detention Centre for long periods of time that contravene the laws of this country.
When asked to respond to the claims outside Cabinet yesterday, Mr Johnson said he could not directly address the matter, but noted there’s a process every applicant must go through in order to obtain refugee status.
He said: “I can’t speak directly to it but there’s a process that persons go through that’s internationally accepted and we’re going to go through that process and if those individuals prove to be entitled to asylum, we will see how best we could assist.
“But, it’s not always that the country where they claim asylum would sometimes give it. You look to see your capacity, or you can refer to the United Nations to see how best they can assist in these matters.
“So, we’re investigating it but as always, it’s the department’s intention and obligation to follow the law to ensure the rule of law is upheld and the dignity of everybody who finds themselves in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas is protected and so we’re doing that.”
Mr Johnson also defended the integrity of the Immigration Department yesterday, noting that the agency has faced false accusations of abuse in the past.
“Anybody that is held and anyone that is taken in the protected custody of any agency in the Bahamas, we have a constitutional duty to protect those persons, to ensure equality before the law and to see that their rights are protected. That is what the government is obligated to do and we’re going to ensure that that happens,” he insisted to reporters.
“But what I want y’all to do sometimes is you know there were some booklets that were put out with immigration officers with firearms, attack dogs, people being beaten which I’ve said in the past are ridiculous and dishonest.”
He added: “And when I question persons as to why they would publish such lies, they indicated they were doing it for sensationalism and that’s not right. You know I took one of your colleagues, she’s not here, into the Detention Centre and allowed her to go in almost every section.”
“I took her down in the back to let her see and inspect and it was my belief that she found just what the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights had said in 2019 when it commended the Bahamas for the improvement at the centre was just that.
“We have one of the best eateries that provide food for detainees and they do it very well. There’s food that the detainees eat, the immigration officers eat and I eat from the establishment so there’s no difficulties there and so we’re trying our best as a small country in the conscience of COVID-19 to do what is right and what is acceptable by the law. “
Asked whether any abuses were being done at the centre, he replied: “Not that I know of and if abuses occur, they will be dealt with. They will be dealt with and you can see from what we’ve been doing obviously led by the director and his team where we find there are abuses by the law, persons go before the courts and we have sat with IOM and many number of human rights entities to ensure that what we’re doing meets not just first with our constitutional mandate but our international treaties that we signed onto.”
Rights Bahamas has threatened to take legal action against the government over the asylum seekers’ treatment.
Source: Tribune 242.com