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Wednesday, January 18, 2006 

18th January
Civil Society Group Raises Alarm Over Illegal Immigration
Bianca Symonette
Members of Civil Society Bahamas, a non-governmental group representing key sectors of the country, yesterday lashed out at the present and former governments for what they called an inactive approach to addressing the illegal immigration crisis.

The group’s president, Freddie Munnings Jr., said since Civil Society Bahamas presented government officials with copies of an Immigration Action Plan in December, it has received no reaction from the government.

"Successive governments over several decades have failed to deal with the problem of illegal immigration. The problem has almost overtaken us and the people of The Bahamas are crying out for a solution," Mr. Munnings said.

"It is the view of Civil Society Bahamas that the problem is not insurmountable, although if it is not dealt with decisively it could destabilize the nation. This problem is not a political one. It is a problem that concerns all Bahamians of every race, colour or creed."

The Action Plan is a compilation of presentations, suggestions, public feedback and opinions expressed at two town meetings last year.

It is a proposal on how to solve the illegal immigration problem and also how to deal with other related immigration matters.

The group suggests rounding up and deporting all illegal immigrants in The Bahamas, prosecuting employers who employ immigrants without work permits, and increasing the manpower of the Police and Defence force.
Immigration Minister Vincent Peet has said repeatedly that the government is already putting in place such measures.

Speaking at a press conference at the Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Munnings said the illegal immigration problem has plagued The Bahamas for far too long and he demanded that the problem be addressed before it worsens.

"This is a people issue," he said. "This problem has been around for more than 50 years and it will continue to be around until the Bahamian people get sensitized sufficiently to demand that they are sick and tired of being second class citizens in their own country."

The group plans to distribute copies of its Action Plan to members of the House of Assembly when they meet today.

"We want them to know and we are sending a message. I don’t care who the government is at this point, but whoever is in charge, whoever is responsible for protecting our nation, we are asking every Bahamian to demand that the appropriate persons handle the situation and protect the citizens of this country," said Mr. Munnings, who failed in his bid in the 2002 election to represent the Delaporte Constituency as a member of the Labour Party.

Phillippa Russell, special event planner and public relations professional for Island Promotions, said she is deeply concerned about the future of the country.

"I am concerned that either by deliberate omission or by simply being overwhelmed with the demands of the office, the present government has done very little to address the illegal immigration problem and the crisis that we are facing," said Ms. Russell, who spoke during the press conference.

She intends to help the group disseminate information to the public on the illegal immigration issue and what needs to be done to address it.

"Once the public is informed our next step would be for us to show up in numbers and demand that the government do something," Ms. Russell said.

Mr. Munnings said that if the government fails to execute the Action Plan and deal with the illegal immigration problem, the national security of The Bahamas would be severely compromised and violent uprisings may occur.

The group is also planning to host another town meeting on February 15 at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel and plans to distribute copies of its Action Plan to persons who attend.

The Bahama Journal - Bahamas News Online Edition
Copyright Jones Communications Ltd. ©2005 - Nassau, Bahamas.

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