PM Christie Addresses UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants

During his statement at the United Nations Summit on Refugees and Migrants, on September 19, 2016, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance for The Bahamas the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie said the phenomenon of large movements of refugees and migrants has reached an unprecedented level of complexity and challenge.

“Global consensus is urgently needed on how to deal with this phenomenon,” Prime Minister Christie said.  “The Bahamas, therefore, welcomes the efforts that are now underway to develop a common understanding on how best to effectively address and manage the large movement of refugees and migrants.”

Prime Minister Christie said that, while discourse on migration tends to focus on the negative aspects of irregular migration, the citizens in The Bahamas, because of their own historical experience with the large movement of migrants, are “acutely mindful” of the positive contributions that can sometimes flow out of regular migration, and the considerable benefits to both sending and receiving countries.

“Such benefits include economic development, cultural cross-fertilization, and the promotion of state-to-state cooperation in managing matters of common concern,” Prime Minister Christie pointed out.

“At the same time, however, it is imperative that we move in earnest towards the development of a comprehensive approach to irregular migration, especially focusing on the underlying causes that motivate so many persons to risk their lives and that of their children in search of a better life in other countries,” he added.

Prime Minster Christie noted that The Bahamas, a country of some 400,000 people, constantly faces large groups of irregular migrants entering into it.

“From Haiti, the numbers come in the thousands to The Bahamas,” he said.  “From Cuba, we continue to receive migrants – only more recently in larger numbers.”

“This is unsustainable and presents both economic and social challenges for The Bahamas,” Prime Minister Christie added.  “We are working with both Governments to manage these challenges, and in the case of Cuba, migration talks are scheduled to resume this December.”

The Bahamas’ immigration policies, Prime Minister Christie stated, are designed to best protect the national security interests and social welfare of Bahamians, while respecting the human rights and dignity of migrants and refugees.

“No longer can we act as if it’s ‘business as usual’,” he said.  “A more concerted effort must be made by all of us to manage irregular migration.”

“In particular, we need to stop criminal enterprises from benefiting from irregular migration,” he admonished.  “We must acknowledge the more aggressive elements involved, inclusive of those using migration as a cover for moving drugs and arms, and trafficking in persons.

“I therefore call upon the United Nations and regional bodies to put in place a mechanism to comprehensively address irregular migration and its impact particularly on small island states such as The Bahamas.”

Prime Minister Christie also expressed his gratitude to the Secretary-General, His Excellency, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, for “his leadership on this issue of migrants and refugees.”

The Bahamas is fully committed to the implementation and promotion of migrant-related mandates of international and regional agreements, to which it is a State party, Prime Minister Christie said.

“Indeed, over the years, The Bahamas has enacted legislative and policy measures aimed at providing protection and support to regular and irregular migrants alike, including refugees, entering our territory,” he said.

“I say again, however, that we must collectively consider the impacts of those that would misuse these procedures as a shield for unlawful behavior, and apply international laws and treaties accordingly.”

Prime Minister Christie said The Bahamas welcomes the Outcomes of this meeting. It reflects the complex array of issues surrounding refugees and migration, and the equally complex responses that are needed for the regularisation of large movements of refugees and migrants.

“We are particularly pleased to see that attention has been given to the need to alleviate some of the burden placed on migrant-recipient countries such as ours,” Prime Minister Christie said.  “We look forward to future bilateral, regional and multilateral engagement based on this principle.”

More generally, Prime Minister Christie said, The Bahamas welcomes the calls for increased support from international, regional and multinational stakeholders for countries of origin, transit and destination.

“We must all agree on the urgent need to address the root causes of the problem that has brought us all together for this High-Level Meeting,” he said.

“I wish to conclude by assuring all Member States of the ongoing and vigorous support of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas for all of the initiatives underway and pending in our common quest to address the large-scale movement of refugees and migrants.”

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