Bell responds to human rights criticisms on immigration and citizenship

IMMIGRATION Minister Keith Bell is satisfied that laws governing immigration and citizenship issues in The Bahamas are strong despite criticism from the United States.

In its latest human rights report, the US highlighted statelessness and discrimination against women in nationality laws.

The report said the government has made little progress in advancing legislation to address statelessness. It also noted that even though Bahamas-born people of foreign heritage can apply for citizenship during a 12-month period after their 18th birthday, applicants sometimes spend years awaiting a response from the government.

Reacting yesterday, Mr Bell said: “To the extent to which we ensure that our immigration laws - and particularly our constitution, which empowers the government to bestow citizenship on an individual - I’m satisfied that our laws are strong and we are following them.”

Advocates and some government officials have long bemoaned delays in responding to citizenship applications, and successive administrations have sought to change citizenship laws that they view as unfair and unequal. Mr Bell, however, appeared to offer some defense of the status quo.

“To the extent to which we will take our time to ensure that whoever comes to this country may be granted citizenship, that is the responsibility and the authority of the government and we will ensure that we do our due diligence,” he said.

“We are not going to be rushed by virtue of someone remaining in this country for a significant period of time, particularly given the fact that we do have a number of persons who come to the country illegally and it is a very topical debate at this time.”

“The laws are currently under review. The Nationality Act, in due course there will be widespread consultation with the Bahamian people to ensure that who we wish to make citizens in this country, there is consensus among our population.”

Commenting has been disabled for this item.