FINANCIAL Services, Trade, Industry and Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson told The Tribune yesterday that he welcomed the recent United Nations inspection visit to the Bahamas because “we have nothing to hide ”.
United Nations Resident Coordinator Dr Garry Conille and his team visited the Carmichael Road Detention Center and a slum known as The Farm in Abaco over the weekend.
After the visit, the United Nations team issued a statement thanking the Bahamas for their hospitality and also promising immigration assistance in the future.
Mr Johnson said the government was happy to have the team here.
“We were happy to have the UN team in the Bahamas because we have absolutely nothing to hide,” he said.
“As a sovereign and democratic country, we celebrate the fact that we are doing whatever is necessary to preserve and protect the fundamental rights and dignity of everyone in the Bahamas.
“We are delighted that they are visiting and inspecting the detention center. We have been congratulated by the Inter-American Commission on Rights for the progress made at the Detention Center. We will continue to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to ensure the protection of everyone’s basic rights. “
In recent weeks, the government has taken action against the Abaco slums and the bulldozing of illegal housing structures is underway.
During the UN team’s visit to Abaco, a group of slum dwellers protested the bulldozing in the hope of attracting the attention of the UN team.
“We have been very clear and unambiguous in what we are doing in Abaco with the slums,” Mr Johnson said. “We say these houses are irregular. They are built in violation of our building regulations and laws and are not suitable for human habitation.
“. . This has been going on for years. The matter is before the courts and we are following the law. We have given proper notice. In relation to this, I will cite this from a previous case where the Privy Council said, “If one occupies and / or builds structures without the permission of the owner, then they do so to their own disadvantage.”
“No one has the right in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, including the government, to illegally take possession of and build, whether private or public. “
A statement issued by the UN after the team’s visit noted: “Dr Garry Conille, United Nations Resident Coordinator (RC) in the Bahamas, thanks the people and government of the Bahamas for their warm welcome and hospitality to the Bahamas. during his advisory mission to the country over the past week.
“Discussions on development cooperation, environment, migration, disaster preparedness and response, economy and recovery from COVID-19 have been positive.
“The RC recognizes the current challenges associated with irregular migration and the health, sanitation and safety vulnerabilities associated with the construction of informal buildings – challenges that are not unique to the Bahamas. The RC also recognizes the government’s positive attempts to treat these sensitive issues with due care and dignity.
“Dr Conille urges the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator and his country team to support and work alongside the Government of The Bahamas and its partners, to help ensure that all migration regularization processes as well as housing and building codes, maintain the health and dignity of all populations, comply with Bahamian law, meet international best practices, recognize the human rights of all people, and uphold Bahamas’ human rights commitments humans.
The UN statement also thanked and praised the “frank, positive, transparent and constructive dialogues” with the government and commended the government for its handling of “back-to-back crises” – Category 5 Hurricane Dorian and COVID -19 global pandemic.