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U.N. official visits Bahamas to discuss new immigration policy

Bahamas Foreign Affairs Minister Hon. Fred Mitchell is pictured with Ambassador Laura Thompson, Deputy Director of the International Organization on Migration (IOM) on the steps of the Foreign Ministry in Nassau, Bahamas on 17th November 2014.

San Juan, Nov 24 (EFE).- The deputy director-general of the International Organization for Migration visited the Bahamas for talks with top officials on the nation’s controversial new immigration law, the government said Monday.

The IOM’s Laura Thompson met with the minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Frederick Mitchell, as a follow-up to the memorandum of understanding signed by the two parties in September during the U.N. General Assembly, according to the government statement.

During the visit, which took place last week, Mitchell and Thompson spoke about an initiative for regional cooperation to combat irregular migration and smuggling among Haiti, the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.

The officials also discussed reintegration programs for Haitians deported from the Bahamas.

Mitchell shared with Thompson his concerns about “misconceptions” arising from media coverage of the new immigration law, suggesting that a public education campaign is needed.

Under the new law, which took effect Nov. 1, the Bahamian government will not accept applications for work permits from persons residing illegally in the country and legal immigrants must carry their passports at all times.

The legislation has been criticized for allegedly targeting Haitians, a charge the Bahamian government denies.

“Amnesty International is disturbed at the Bahamian authorities’ use of language which appears to stigmatize migrants and Bahamians perceived to be migrants, including children, and may stoke discrimination and xenophobia in the country,” the human rights organization said recently