NASSAU, Bahamas – For the first time in close to 30 years, senior managers and administrators of the Immigration Department participated in a workshop to review draft legislation and policies aimed at transforming the Department.
Minister of State for Immigration the Hon Branville McCartney in his opening address at the workshop held Thursday at SuperClubs Breezes, underscored the importance of the workshop – the first in about three decades.
“It comes at a time when we are preparing and positioning ourselves to take advantage of opportunities during the economic downturn. It comes at a time when the Department is placing renewed focus on customer service,” he said.
The day’s agenda included a final review of the draft legislation, which seeks to amend Immigration laws to allow for a new E-ID system to be implemented for various categories of permit cards.
“Your review and completion of this piece of legislation is critical toward the Department realising one of its main objectives this year,” Mr. McCartney said, adding that the law is expected to be enacted before Parliament’s summer recess.
He said that as The Bahamas celebrates its 36th Independence Anniversary on July 10, there remains “unclear guidelines and policies” with respect to a number of immigration matters such as citizenship, permanent residency, annual residency and spousal permits.
The senior immigration officials also looked at measures pertaining to the harbouring of illegal migrants and proposed increased fines for employers found in breach of the law.
Also on the agenda was a revision of immigration application forms for returning residents and visitors.
Mr. McCartney reminded the senior managers that The Bahamas remains the premier tourist destination in the Caribbean and that its financial services sector continues to thrive.
“This means that we must ensure that both our tourist and financial services are adequately and fully staff always. Our first preference is always Bahamians but where Bahamians cannot be found we must support and permit foreign labour,” he said.
In this vein, he stressed that there must be clear guidelines regarding the issuance of work permits and that “special” attention be given to the process.
“Senior managers, I encourage you to think outside the box because it cannot be business as usual. I challenge you to bring a paradigm shift within this Department,” Mr. McCartney said.