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Johnson doing damage control over Mexican workers

Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson is doing damage control amid public furor over 134 Mexicans who arrived in The Bahamas yesterday to join the construction team at Baker’s Bay in Abaco.

Following the circulation of images of the foreign workers checking in at Lynden Pindling International Airport and subsequently landing in Marsh Harbour, Abaco on a Bahamasair flight, Bahamians have rightly questioned why foreigners are still receiving work permits when unemployment is through the roof. They also questioned whether the Mexicans presented COVID-19 negative tests before being allowed to land in The Bahamas.

Johnson sought to justify the granting of 135 work permits and said during the passage of Hurricane Dorian last September, many parts of North Abaco suffered severe damage, including Baker’s Bay.

“Sometime following the aftermath of the storm the developers of Baker’s Bay expressed to the Government their desire to rebuild as soon as it was humanely possible. It was further expressed that the intention was to reconstruct the project within a year to a year-and-a-half,” according to statement from Johnson.

“There was an original request for 500 work permits. However, based on the Government’s labor mandate to ensure that Bahamians be given priority for any and all job opportunities, and that Bahamians also make up the vast majority of the onsite labor force, that request was refused and instead 135 work permits were granted.”

Johnson said work permit applicants are to facilitate technical works, whose skill sets would also be shared with the Bahamian workforce.

He added, “The vision of the developer is to bring the project back to a global standard and it is their goal to have up to 1,400 persons employed with the vast majority of them being Bahamians. He said there are 420 Bahamians employed on the project.”

“On Thursday 2nd July 2020, 134 persons from Mexico arrived in New Providence, who will be part of the project at Baker’s Bay. Every one of the 134 persons was in possession of their Ministry of Health travel visa and each presented authorities with a negative Covid-19 test result,” he said

Even if the work permits applications were approved pre-COVID, members of the construction industry have asked why they were still issued when thousands of Bahamians, including skilled laborers, are on the unemployment line.

It begs the question is the government really putting Bahamians first?

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