56 Haitians caught
Fifty-six illegal Haitian migrants were caught near Clifton Pier and Commonwealth Brewery early yesterday morning after a worker spotted their sloop in waters near the pier, authorities said.
The incident occurred nearly one month after an empty Haitian sloop was found on the shoreline of Adelaide Village and just a stone’s throw away from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) base.
Head of the Department of Immigration’s Enforcement Unit Kirklyn Neely said yesterday that officers initially apprehended 40 men, 12 women and three children, some of whom had fled into nearby bushes.
Officers caught one more man, around noon, in the same area.
Neely said the sloop could easily transport between 80 to 100 people.
He said immigration officials received a call between 6:45 a.m. and 7 a.m. from a worker at Clifton Pier
who said that a Haitian sloop had landed nearby. The sloop’s sail was orange and red.
Officers from the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), RBDF and immigration were immediately dispatched to the scene, he said.
“We got some out of the bushes,” Neely said.
He noted that officials would comb the area, as late as today, in search of any remaining illegals.
Many nearby workers flocked to scene, uploading photos and video of the incident on social media.
Immigration kept the illegal migrants grouped together on the grass in front of Commonwealth Brewery. Many were shivering from the early morning cold and wind.
Around 8:30 a.m., two large buses arrived to transport the illegals to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
One of the illegal migrants silently shed tears as he was ushered onto one of the buses.
Another man had to be helped onto the bus by another illegal migrant. It was unclear if he had any health issues.
Neely said the migrants appeared to be healthy, but that a medical team was set up at the detention center to screen them.
“We already have a medical team there,” he said.
“Once we get there, between the police and defense force, we will have them do finger printing and we will be able to question and interrogate and find out when they left Haiti, where and how many people were on the boat and, if possible, the captain’s name.”
Neely added that he had given instruction for the sloop to be destroyed.
“We normally burn the boat down and sink it,” he said. “[We want to] make sure that, that boat doesn’t travel back to The Bahamas and bring illegals with it.”
Neely also noted that some of the migrants appeared familiar.
“[Some] of the people on the boat, we would just probably have repatriated them in a month or so,” he said.
“We are seeing a return. It’s the same thing with the Cubans.”
Neely noted that it costs between $40,000 to $45,000 to repatriate a group of Haitians to Haiti.
RBDF Lieutenant Commander Eric Strachan, commanding officer of commando squadron, said his team was on a surveillance operation near South Beach when they got the call about the sloop.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has warned all illegal migrants in The Bahamas that they have until the end of the month to leave the country, after which they would be “aggressively pursued and deported”.
But the government has said that there is no amnesty for illegal migrants in the meantime.