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Hunt for migrants

Authorities baffled by empty sloop on shoreline
A sloop that washed ashore at Adelaide Village, near Albany, in November. FILE

Authorities found an empty sloop, large enough to carry up to 250 people, on the shoreline of Adelaide Village on Saturday morning, but there was no sign of who came in on the vessel, which was a stone’s throw from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) base.

According to Kirklyn Neely, who heads the Department of Immigration’s Enforcement Unit, RBDF officers found wet clothing on and around the boat and footprints in the sand.

Officers conducted a search of the immediate area but did not capture anyone from the vessel.

“The size of the boat would suggest that it could carry anywhere from 150 to 250 persons,” Neely told The Nassau Guardian.

“Nobody was caught so far… Anytime this amount of people get into the community, it’s really hard to capture [them].

“I am sending a warning out to everybody around: If you know where these people [are], you can contact me on my cell, 359-3014, or contact the office.

“Anybody who is holding these people, they need to know that the law states that they can be charged and fined.”

Neely added it is important to capture someone from the boat, so the person can advise officials where the migrants left from in Haiti, how many people were on the boat and what time they arrived.

The sloop landed on the beach, behind the home of Pericles Maillis, a conservationist and attorney.

Maillis, who said he did not see the actual boat, added that his family woke up to the empty vessel just a few feet away from their home.

“It was right on the beach, calm conditions,” he said.

“It’s the most yacht-like Haitian sloop I’ve ever seen. I saw the pictures.

“It’s only been like two or three in 40 years that came down our end of the island.”

Asked his thoughts about the sloop landing so near to his home, Maillis said, “It landed on a public beach; it didn’t land in my yard.

“It’s just scary that it could have been a swarm of hungry people.

“The boat had water on it, lots of water; you could see it on the pictures.

“They come everywhere these days. When we pray for some change and justice in Haiti then maybe they will stop coming.”

Alexandra Maillis-Lynch, Maillis’ sister who also lives in Adelaide, said while she did not see any action from the sloop on Saturday, she noticed defense force officers patrolling the area.

Asked her thoughts on the landing near her home, Maillis-Lynch said it reminded her of another Haitian landing when she was a little girl.

“My thoughts on Haitian immigration is that I saw a Haitian sloop come ashore when I was a little girl and there was a body of a drowned boy,” she said.

“He drowned trying to make it to shore, on our beach.

“And I never forgot that sight, and it always stayed with me – the sight of desperation.

“So I am not as hardline on immigration as people would like me to be.

“Desperation makes desperate people do desperate things to survive in life.

“While we have to protect our country, and I accept that and agree with all of the issues going on that have to be faced, I feel like there are ways to face them.”

Another Adelaide resident, who asked not to be named, said he was stunned when he saw the sloop on the beach just after 7 a.m., only a mile or so from the defense force base.

The resident said he heard movement of vehicles in the quiet community around 3 a.m. Saturday, but did not realize what was happening until he saw the sloop.

He said he could see from the boat that people had been on it for awhile and added that the landing was a “surgical operation” which allowed the migrants to come on the beach and “vanish into thin air”.

The illegal landing came weeks after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced a crackdown on illegal immigration.

Minnis said all illegal migrants have until December 31 to become regularized or be “aggressively pursued and deported”.

But immigration authorities said migrants who land illegally in The Bahamas would be immediately repatriated.


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