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#2242: Bahamas to round up illegal immigrants (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

    NASSAU, Bahamas, Feb 8 (Reuters) - The Bahamas has too many illegal
immigrants and will mount a sustained effort to identify and expel them,
Immigration Minister Tommy Turnquest said on Tuesday.
     The Bahamas, a former British colony of about 280,000 people, is a
frequent stopover for Haitian and Cuban migrants trying to reach Florida in
small boats.
     "I wish to advise all persons currently in the Bahamas without proper
legal status that the Department of Immigration will take every action to
apprehend such persons," Turnquest said at a news conference.
     The Bahamas currently has 424 illegal immigrants, including 352
Haitians and 59 Cubans, in custody awaiting repatriation, officials said.
     Turnquest said 3,944 illegal immigrants were repatriated in 1999 at a
cost of $700,000. So far this year more than 350 illegals have been
returned home. Another 164 Haitians were scheduled to be sent back this
     Fifty-two illegal immigrants, mostly Cubans, have escaped from Her
Majesty's Prison since last October.
     Turnquest said there were unacceptable numbers of undocumented
immigrants working in the Bahamas and identified travelling salespeople,
consultants, construction, farm and domestic workers as the greatest
     He advised anyone working in the Bahamas while their application for a
work permit was being processed to leave. Anyone found working before their
permit was approved would be refused a permit and asked to leave, he added.
     "The process for work permits is currently being reviewed to ensure
that all applications are dealt with on a timely basis with the policy of
'Bahamians first' being consistently, fairly and inexorably applied,"
Turnquest said.
     In related news, Turnquest said the director of the Department of
Immigration, Melvin Seymour, was transferred to the Ministry of Education.
His deputy, Vernon Burrows, was appointed acting immigration director.
     The Bahamas, a nation of some 700 low-lying islands stretching from
just off the Florida east coast to north of Haiti, has a tourism-dependent
economy and a budding offshore financial sector.
     As many as 30,000 to 40,000 Haitians are believed to live in the
archipelago but it was uncertain how many were illegal immigrants.