EDITORIAL: Look in the mirror and say it isn’t so

Not long ago, questions were raised in this very column after the United States issued a travel advisory for The Bahamas, warning tourists to be on their guard as they visited our shores.

The concerns were valid, as it looked as if the dangers were being exaggerated or, indeed, even out of date.

In contrast, the concerns raised by the US State Department in its report on human rights in our country is a more substantial matter, not least because they really are telling us things that we already know.

Take, for example, the cases of Jean Rony Jean-Charles and Taranique Thurston, who found themselves separately embroiled in worries over statelessness.

Mr Jean-Charles was born in The Bahamas to Haitian parents but found himself deported before being brought back from Haiti at the order of the Supreme Court. His case still, two years on, rumbles through the legal system with the Privy Council possibly due to take up the matter.

Taranique Thurston is a sick teenager who was stranded here in The Bahamas instead of being able to travel for treatment until finally the government issued her a certificate of identity that listed her as Haitian despite it being two generations since her family was born there.

In each of these cases, we surely know without the aid of the tut-tutting of the US that there are problems in how we deal with questions of nationality and residency. The system is not smooth, and leads to people being caught in it who have never seen the country they would be dismissed to. We know this situation should be resolved – though there never seems the political will to do so.

Likewise when it comes to the concerns raised over the conditions at the prison in Fox Hill, who among us is surprised?

It’s overcrowded – we know that – it lacks sanitation, and there are problems with access to water and medical care. Juvenile offenders find themselves alongside adults and there are rats and maggots in the cells.

We know – but again, where is the will to change it?

Then we come to the warning about the risk of corruption because of a lack of rules over campaign finance. This one made it as far as the FNM’s pre-election pledges to tackle, though still no bill has been introduced. This one had the will to promise to change it – if not with any urgency.

So if we know all of these problems, does the US report have value? Absolutely – for it holds up a mirror to ourselves and shows us how we can do better.

That two of the three items above routinely affect sections of our communities that find themselves too often voiceless – immigrants and their descendants, or those subject to our legal system – means they are often affecting people whose votes aren’t being sought by politicians.

The US report gives them a voice, and forces us to listen.

These are all areas in which we can – we must – do better. We know that. So what do we do next?

Whether some people like it or not - migrants have rights, their children have rights, prisoners have rights even when other law abiding citizens are denied them.

It’s called a civilised society.

Without it we appear Third World.