Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Constitutional Rights of Haitian Bahamians

Monday's edition of the Freeport News has a helpful story that explains the constitutional rights of Bahamian-born Haitians who wish to acquire Bahamian citizenship. Basically, anyone born in the Bahamas (not just Haitian-Bahamians) to non-Bahamian parents is eligible to apply for Bahamian citizenship within a year of their eighteenth birthday. Upon submitting the proper application materials, according to the law, they should be granted Bahamian citizenship in a timely fashion.

For the most part, this sounds like a reasonable policy on paper. In practice, however, it rarely happens that way. Many young Haitian-Bahamians wait years for their applications to be processed, if they get processed at all. In the meantime, they remain second-class citizens in their country of birth. If they decide to pursue university studies, they must pay the foreign tuition rate at College of the Bahamas and they are unable to apply for a passport to pursue studies abroad.

In the past year, at least two groups of Haitian-Bahamians have formed here in Nassau whose agenda is to address issues such as these. Another group, the Bahamas Human Rights Network (BHRN), has recently been formed as well. Unlike the other two groups, BHRN is primarily made up of Bahamians who are concerned about righting the injustices their country has inflicted upon Haitians and Bahamians of Haitian descent. In the days and weeks ahead, I hope to begin documenting the work of these groups on this blog.



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