By Taneka Thompson
Nassau Guardian Senior Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Director of Immigration William Pratt said on Thursday the detainment of a banking executive in an immigration road block in The Bahamas will not cause the Department of Immigration to alter its practices in future road blocks and spot checks.
He said the officers were simply following the Immigration Act.
“The immigration officers were just doing their jobs,” Pratt said.
“It’s unfortunate that the gentleman did not have his work permit on him. As soon as I was made aware of it I telephoned them on the street and asked to have him released.”
Executive director of UBS (Bahamas) Emmanuel Fiaux was detained on Tuesday during the immigration enforcement exercise.
Drivers were stopped and questioned about their status during the roadblocks. They were asked to produce evidence to confirm they are in The Bahamas legally.
Fiaux was taken to a detention centre temporarily after he was unable to produce right-to-work documentation on the spot.
Representatives of the offshore banking sector held an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Perry Christie on Wednesday to address the detention and have called on the government to take a “more sensitive approach” to enforcing the country’s laws so as to avoid harming the industry.
Minister of Financial Services Ryan Pinder told The Tribune on Wednesday he personally apologized to Fiaux over the incident.
While Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell did not comment directly on the matter involving the bank executive, he defended immigration officers in the execution of their duties.
“Law enforcement checks may mean some inconvenience, but it serves the greater good,” Mitchell said in a statement.
“I would therefore appeal to the public to be patient and also to be respectful in the interface with officers.
“They are doing a difficult and tough job. They have been trained to be respectful. They too deserve respect in their interface with the public. It is not helpful to be abusive to the officers.”
Pratt said Fiaux was taken to the detention centre for processing before his release because of standard procedure.
He said that to his knowledge the banker was treated the same as others who were detained.
Pratt said he does not believe in discriminating against people.
“I believe people should not be judged on the colour of their skin or the type of clothes they’re wearing,” he said.
“We are dealing with human beings and we try to treat everyone fairly and equally.”
He said more than 40 non-Bahamians who were in the country legally were detained in the exercise because they did not have their paperwork on them.
He urged people with a legal right to live and work in the country to carry the relevant documents at all times to avoid detention.
The Department of Immigration has pledged to execute more roadblocks and roundups in the next few months.
Former Minister of State for Immigration Branville McCartney said on Thursday it is “unfortunate” that the executive was detained during the exercise.
McCartney said the incident is evidence the Department of Immigration should be more “progressive” in its approach.
He said the department should have its records computerized so that officers doing roundups can quickly check the status of a person before detaining him or her.
“We still go about things in a third world manner where we cannot go and put [information] into a computer; that ought to be in the immigration [officer’s] vehicle to see whether or not this person has the necessary documentation,” he said.
“If it were anybody else and they were apprehended wrongly, it doesn’t bode well. This tells us what we need to do.
“We need to start being more progressive in our approach in terms of when we deal with apprehension.”
He also said the government should apologize to everyone with status who was detained.
“It should be across the board,” McCartney said.
“It should not just be for a banker and not for the handyman or not for the housekeeper. That is my concern.”
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian