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Human rights group wants probe after DPM revealed CCA workers’ passports withheld

Senior Business Reporter

Published: Mar 20, 2017

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Independent observers questioned whether or not the government is serious about its commitment to the amendment of the Trafficking in Persons Prevention and Suppression Act 2008, after it recently took part in the phase two groundbreaking of China Construction America's (CCA) The Pointe project. According to Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, CCA may have been engaged in withholding workers’ passports, which is considered a violation of human rights.

Davis made the revelation in the House of Assembly Wednesday, saying that passports and work permits were held as “a means to control” the movement of workers.

Davis said his government did not learn about the alleged incident until it took office after the 2012 general election, adding that as long as no complaints were made by workers, there was no justified reason to investigate it.

However, yesterday the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA) called for the Office of the Attorney General to "launch an immediate investigation and possible prosecution over claims that the passports of thousands of foreign workers were withheld as a means of controlling their movement".

The GBHRA called Davis' revelation and CCA's alleged violation a "form of modern day slavery".

“In making this startling revelation about the construction of Baha Mar and the withholding of Chinese workers’ passports, the deputy prime minister said that several complaints have been looked into. We call on the attorney general to immediately disclose the outcome of those inquiries to the public and launch a full investigation into the labor practices used during the project in question,” said the GBHRA.

“The government has admitted it was aware that the legal rights of thousands of individuals may have been violated on Bahamian soil, and may continue to be violated, yet no action has been taken. This is simply unacceptable and must be remedied immediately.

“If what DPM Davis has said is true, there have been multiple clear violations of the Trafficking in Persons Act, each of which carries a possible prison sentence of three to 10 years. The Office of the Attorney General must do its job without fear or favor and prove that no one is above the law.”

The GBHRA in a press release said the International Labour Organization (ILO) considers forced labor and human trafficking "key components in the practice of modern slavery that today affects almost 21 million people around the world".

“The public must realize how serious this is. Unbeknownst to the vast majority of Bahamians, the construction of that resort may have placed this country at the crux of one of the most vexing and dangerous problems facing the international community today,” the group said.

“The ILO has just passed a landmark Forced Labour Protocol, and raising awareness of the issue was the theme of the United Nations' most recent International Day in December 2016.

“The whole world is focused on combatting modern day slavery, yet somehow The Bahamas learns this vile practice has been going on, perhaps on a massive scale, on our shores and under our very noses. The government simply cannot allow this to pass unchallenged. They must demonstrate that the rule of law still exists in this country.”

The group also called on Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell to come to the defense of The Bahamas' reputation internationally by announcing that the government will take action on the issue raised by Davis.

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Last Updated on Monday, 20 March 2017 01:57

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