Over 900 Haitian migrants apprehended in Bahamian waters

By Rumi Samuel Published on September 28, 2021
Over 900 Haitian migrants apprehended in Bahamian waters

Since Wednesday, more than 900 Haitian migrants have been apprehended in Bahamian waters as Haiti grapples with heightened political, economic and social unrest.

According to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF), “400-plus” migrants were detained yesterday after their vessel sank in the Ragged Island chain.

On Saturday, 195 Haitian migrants were apprehended in two separate incidents.

On Saturday morning, a sloop carrying 50 Haitians was intercepted off Inagua.

Later in the day, a sloop was spotted in the Ragged Island chain. Marines aboard an RBDF ship discovered 145 migrants on board.

ON THURSDAY EVENING, the RBDF said that while en route to Inagua with a group of 70 migrants, who were apprehended earlier in the day, marines aboard the HMBS Bahamas spotted another sloop just five miles west of Inagua with 151 Haitians on board.

On Wednesday, authorities apprehended 86 Haitian migrants off Inagua.

The more than 900 Haitian migrants detained in five days represented an apparent uptick in such incidents; Bahamian officials indicated weeks ago that such an influx of migration from Haiti was expected.

In July, President of Haiti Jovenel Moïse was assassinated inside his home on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, sending shockwaves across the globe and raising regional concern over the level of instability in the impoverished island nation.

The Bahamas’ then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield said the civil unrest in Haiti would undoubtedly have an impact in The Bahamas, where tens of thousands of Haitian migrants have settled in recent decades.

RBDF Commodore Dr Raymond King also said at the time that additional vessels being were sent to the southeast Bahamas in anticipation of a possible mass exodus of migrants from Haiti.

Compounding the concerns, weeks later, Haiti, still reeling from Moïse’s slaying and the power vacuum it created, was struck by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, which killed more than 2,000 people and left entire communities in shambles.

The irregular migration from Haiti has long been a contentious one, with the seemingly ceaseless flow of impoverished migrants breeding contempt and resentment among many Bahamians.

As the defence force rounded up more and more Haitian migrants over the weekend, Acting Prime Minister Chester Cooper travelled to Inagua on Saturday to address them.

“We are here to help you,” said Cooper with the assistance of a translator. “We need your cooperation. We have enough food and enough water. So, we ask you to be patient.

“It is important that you follow the instructions of the officers. We want you to know that you have landed in The Bahamas illegally, and therefore we will help you and process you to return to your home.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell said yesterday the government is reviewing whether the court must process migrants before being deported.

Mitchell said the process is too time-consuming and added that a humanitarian crisis could be brewing in Inagua if nothing changes.

An RBDF spokesman said last night that the group of migrants apprehended yesterday was being held on Flamingo Cay in the Ragged Island chain.

The remaining migrants were being detained in Inagua.

Rumi Samuel

Rumi Samuel

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