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Bahamas facing immigration problem


Bahamas facing immigration problem

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NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — The government of the Bahamas is seeking additional space to hold migrant women with children amid complaints about conditions at the main detention centre at a time of increased enforcement of residency rules in the island chain.

Prime Minister Perry Christie has directed officials to find a way to separate families from the general population in the Carmichael Road Detention Centre, Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell said recently.

Officials from the immigration and social services agencies are working on the project and it is not yet known when they will find alternative space, said Mitchell in an interview.

Last month, new residency and work permit rules took effect in the Bahamas that Mitchell and other officials say are intended to address a surge in illegal migration that has brought thousands of people to the islands, mostly from nearby Haiti, and strained social services.

Immigration agents have fanned out to enforce the rules and detained hundreds of people in what activists say are terrible conditions at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.

A report from the Caribbean Human Rights Institute from mid-November found women and children mixed in with men in the detention centre without adequate access to medicine and sanitary items. The children had gone at least four days without changing clothes and there were no diapers, the report found.

The government has denied treating migrants inhumanely but said it would reduce overcrowding at the detention by deporting migrants, including about 200 sent to Haiti last week.

Separately, two pregnant women of Haitian descent, Rose St Fleur and Charline Frederic, have filed complaints with authorities alleging they were beaten and mistreated by members of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force during an immigration raid. They said they are Bahamian citizens but were detained because they didn’t have documents with them at the time.

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force declined to comment, citing a police investigation of the allegations.