Bahamas imposes new immigration restrictions

Bahamas imposes new immigration restrictions
Associated Press / BIS, Vandyke Hepburn

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) _ The Bahamas’ government announced a measure Wednesday aimed at making it harder for migrants to work in the island chain and said it was considering additional restrictions as part of a plan that appeared mostly aimed at the large numbers of Haitians who have settled in the country in recent years.

Under a new rule that goes into effect immediately, no work permits will be issued to anyone who does not have legal status in the Bahamas, Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell told parliament. In addition, anyone who applies without legal status will be arrested and deported.

The Cabinet also is considering measures that include a permanent ban on giving legal status to anyone ever deported from the Bahamas. Other proposed restrictions include a requirement that Haitians seeking work permits could be required to pay additional processing fees and apply in person at the Bahamas Embassy in Port-au-Prince.

Mitchell said government officials have discussed the proposed changes with the Haitian ambassador and plan to present them to other officials in Haiti, an impoverished country to the south of the island chain.

Haitians have long used the Bahamas as both a transit point to reach the United States and as a place to settle, often taking low-wage jobs. The exact number of people from Haiti in the Bahamas is unknown but the International Organization for Migration estimated in 2009 that up to 50,000 Haitians were illegally in the Bahamas.