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The dedication of additional printing time for ePassport applications out of Grand Bahama has resulted in the completion of hundreds of the new passports ready for collection at the Grand Bahama passport offic
Thieves broke into the Haitian Embassy on Shirley Street over the weekend and stole two safes containing approximately $20,000, embassy officials said yesterday.
Police said they believe the burglars gained access to the complex after breaking the locks off the door at the rear of the embassy.
An employee reportedly noticed the door was open when he arrived around 8 a.m. yesterday.
Haitian Ambassador to The Bahamas Antonio Rodrigue said nearly all of the offices were ransacked.
The Nassau Guardian was shown several damaged doors and offices where desk drawers were overturned and documents littered the floor.
Rodrigue said he believes the culprits broke into the embassy in search of money, as no documents were taken.
One safe was removed from beneath the ambassador's desk.
Rodrigue said it contained money from passport applications over the past week and other services.
"You see your property has been invaded, you have a break-in and you don't feel safe anymore," he said.
When asked whether he thought the break-in may be connected to the Department of Immigration's interdiction exercise over the weekend, Rodrigue said, "Maybe the people took the opportunity because they [thought] we had lots of money coming here since the government wants all foreigners to have national passports, and maybe they [thought] this was a good moment to come.
"But I don't relate the event to the exercise."
A new immigration policy, which took effect on Saturday, requires all non-Bahamians to have passports of their nationalities and evidence that they have permission to live and work in the country.
The policy also states that the Department of Immigration will not accept first-time applications for residence or work permits from those who have no legal status in The Bahamas.
There has been strong reaction to Saturday's round-ups of more 77 illegal immigrants, including children.
Some people objected while others supported the government's actions.
Rodrigue admitted that the embassy is not guarded on weekends and has no alarm system or surveillance cameras.
However, the ambassador said officials will put those security measures in place.
Rodrigue said two minor incidents, including the theft of a cell phone, were reported at the embassy within the last month.
Several people were turned away from the building as embassy officials and police canvassed the two-story complex.
The embassy has just over a dozen employees.
In September, burglars entered through the roof of the Department of Immigration on Hawkins Hill and stole several televisions and other electronic items, according to police.
That building was also broken into in 2010.
THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration officially launched its e-Calendar, an online application that will allow Bahamians to apply for their e-Passport and make an appointment at the Passport Office.
Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance, explained the process, which is aimed at drastically reducing the time-frame in which an e-Passport or machine-readable passport, can be processed and issued.
Applicants can log on to http://epassport.bahamas.gov.bs, fill out the application and submit it to the Passport Office in New Providence.
"We are very proud of the work that has been done. We are now down to two weeks in ...
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration on Wednesday, December 1, 2010 officially launched its E-Calendar, an online application for Bahamians to apply for their E-passport and make an appointment for enrollment at the Passport Office.
Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration in conjunction with the ministry of Finance explained the process, which is aimed to drastically reduce the timeframe in which an E-passport or machine-readable passport, is processed and issued....
St. Anne's MP Hubert Chipman yesterday voiced his support for the new immigration policy, which mandates that all non-Bahamian students must have a student permit to attend schools in The Bahamas.
However, Chipman, who is the shadow minister for immigration, said the government is putting the cart before the horse.
"I think they should have brought the matter to Parliament and we should have debated it," Chipman said
"That way you have teeth in law and you give the Department of Immigration lead time to deal with this thing."
Chipman added that various embassies, but most especially the Haitian embassy, would need time to process passport applications.
"I firmly believe, and I don't have a problem with registration of children, but you can't just implement them willy nilly as you go along and say that is the policy," he said.
"That's the cart before the horse. The cart is dragging the horse."
Despite his concerns, Chipman said it is important for there to be a mechanism to track the number of migrants in the school system.
As a part to the new immigration policy, all non-Bahamian students will be required to possess a student permit or a passport with a residency stamp when schools open in the fall.
The requirement also applies to children who are born in The Bahamas but have foreign parents.
Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald stressed on Thursday that the government is "resolute" in its determination to enforce the policy.
However, Fitzgerald said education officials will be flexible based on the Department of Immigration's ability to process the applications in time.
"As the minister of education, I support Minister [Fred] Mitchell and the immigration department in their attempts to enforce the immigration laws of our country," Fitzgerald told The Nassau Guardian from Panama.
"At the end of the day, we have to ensure that when dealing with children we understand we have to have a balance in our approach, but we intend to enforce the immigration laws of the country and we expect not only for non-nationals to be registered. But for Bahamians to be registered because we have a challenge now where some Bahamian mothers are not registering their children at birth and getting birth certificates and this causes a problem at the end of the day when they go to get passports."
The rule is a part of the wider immigration policy that focuses on reducing the number of illegal immigrants living in The Bahamas.
Fitzgerald urged parents of non-Bahamian children to apply for the student permits immediately.
He said immigration officials have assured they will be able to process the permits by the fall.
But Chipman, who said the Department of Immigration is in a "state of is disarray", expressed doubt that the department will be able to handle the applications for student permits in a timely fashion.
"We need to get our house in order before we start these things," he said referring o the backlog of applications in general.
"People have been waiting five or ten years without getting responses to some applications. I have testimonies of this."
Chipman said the policy will also likely have a "negative flip side".
"You will always have illegal immigrants in this country," he said
"So if the child can't go to school, what are you breeding? Illiterates."
However, he acknowledged that the government must "start somewhere".
Former Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette weighed in on the policy on Wednesday.
Symonette predicted there would be a "big disruption" in September.
He expressed concern about "bureaucracy and whether or not people can get their passports, their permits and everything" in time.
He also encouraged the government to wait until fall 2016 before implementing its student permit policy.
But Mitchell expressed confidence that the process will be fine.
Asked whether the government will consider delaying the policy, Mitchell said there is never a perfect time.
The Cabinet is now considering investing in new border management control systems to make processing faster at the border. Plans to introduce biometrics and INTERPOL checks are in the works, and the Cabinet could possibly make the move in 2015, Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell has disclosed.
The disclosure came as Mitchell spoke at the graduation ceremony for new immigration officers in Grand Bahama. The minister spoke with Guardian Business about the matter subsequently.
"The matter has been to the Tenders Board and is now advanced to the Cabinet for its consideration," he said. "I do not want to anticipate the decision that might be made (about when and if a new system will be acquired). If one is favorable, then procurement should be next year."
The minister discussed his expectations for the new system.
"This is the next generation of border management. It should make The Bahamas consonant with best practices and the latest technology. One hopes that all systems will be fully digitized [to include] border entry (airport and sea port), biometrics at border entry, passport applications fully digitized, biometrics within those passports, approvals also electronic, visa applications electronic and digitized with biometrics and new security features, access of the passport and immigration to police criminal record data bases and international criminal checks.
"Passports and immigration and police and defense force, their personnel and computers ought to be able to talk to one another. I would wish to have what exists in Dubai; it takes three seconds to process a visitor through the border machine, and you are on your way."
Mitchell initially disclosed the request for new border management systems at the graduation ceremony for new immigration officers in Grand Bahama last week.
"However, we as always are cognizant of the shortage of resources," he told the recruits. "I again appeal to the public to understand that there is a severe shortage of resources which immigration cannot rectify. We try to do more with less, but there is a critical shortage of equipment and manpower which the department is seeking to address."
U.S. Embassy Announces Changes to U.S. Visa Application Process and Expanded Drop-Off Hours for Applications for Minor Children
U.S. Government regulations now require all individuals applying for U.S. visas to submit DS-160 visa application forms that are fully accurate and complete.†
Individuals presenting applications containing omissions or errors in biographical data (i.e. name, date of birth, place of birth, passport number, any prior or maiden names, gender)† or purpose of travel will be required to correct the omissions and/or errors to their online applications before their interviews can take place.
STATEMENT BY FRED MITCHELL MP
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
ON DELIVERY SERVICES AT THE PASSPORT OFFICE
I would like to alert the public to the fact of serious challenges at the passport office which will result in delays in the delivery of passport services during the summer. The waiting time I am advised is now on average six weeks from the time of application, up from four weeks.
I am advised that the reason for this is the combination of the rush for people to replace their handwritten passports with electronic passports which is mandated by an international agreement and the expected summer travel rush. I have met with the management of the passport staff and we are making several attempts to ease the situation.
The Minister for the Public Service has agreed to enable officers from across the service to join the passport office for this period and to assist in the creation of a two shift system in order to speed up the process.
Please note that if passports are required on an emergency basis, for example for health reasons, there is a procedure to deal with such genuine emergencies.