By: Lindsay Thompson
NASSAU, Bahamas – Minister of State for Immigration the Hon. Elma Campbell urged the business community this week to uphold the country’s immigration laws so as not to jeopardise the country’s political and economic status.
“We encourage the business community to do its part by exercising due diligence in ensuring that applications are properly completed and all supporting documents are submitted and that the application being made is in the best interest of development in The Bahamas,” Mrs. Campbell said. “We count on the business community to uphold the immigration laws of The Bahamas.”
The Minister said the government’s recently initiated comprehensive immigration policy is “well underway” and is addressing the challenges facing the Department of Immigration in areas of illegal migration and the processing of work permits.
This reorganisation is in keeping with the Constitution, laws and national development priorities, she pointed out.
“Rest assured that we will give notice to Bahamians and to our communities and will listen in our efforts to reach a national consensus in this critical area,” Ms. Campbell said.
“Work permits,” the Minister noted, “will only be approved as and when suitable and trained Bahamians are unavailable, or are unwilling to accept such employment and all avenues both national and international have been exhausted to confirm that there is no Bahamian available.”
Since the launching of the new immigration policy, the Immigration Board convenes weekly in New Providence and twice a month in Grand Bahama, Ms. Campbell said.
She revealed that in August, 1,650 work permits and 360 permits to reside were considered. In September, 1,100 work permits and 100 permits to reside were considered and in October, 1,300 work permits and 90 permits to reside were considered. Of these for the financial services sector, there were 50 applicants in August, 140 in September and 60 in October.
It is a policy of Government that work permits will be refused for persons who enter the country as visitors, she explained. If travel of a foreign professional to the country for employment is imminent and there is an urgent need to engage that person, the department will make every effort to expedite the application, provided that all necessary documents are attached.
To enhance the skills, efficiency and professionalism of staff at the department of Immigration, the department has initiated an ongoing series of seminars in New Providence and Grand Bahama on “Excellence in Customer Service”, the Minister added.
“Already we are beginning to see the results of these seminars from the standpoint of greater pride in services,” she said. “We are continuing to monitor staff performances in these areas.”
Ms. Campbell then challenged her audience to mentor students in grades 10 through 12 in various business professions. It’s a call she also recently put out to the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce.
“Through observation and fieldwork, these students would be familiarised with business practices and management procedures in the business that adopts them throughout the school year.
“Summer internships might be offered to the most promising and upon graduation, consideration might be given to offers of employment and/or scholarships for further study,” Ms. Campbell said.