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RBDF: Illegal landings no cause for alarm

Captain of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Adrian Chriswell said yesterday that though the defense force would like a clean record of zero illegal landings in The Bahamas, such occurrences will take place from time to time, including in New Providence, as the organization deals with a sophisticated network of human smugglers.

However, Chriswell, who acknowledged the public has placed increased scrutiny on the efforts of the defense force to protect the borders in the wake of four incidents on New Providence near the Coral Harbour base since last November, said the RBDF will be in a better position in the months to come as it engages the use of military drone technology, a coastal radar system and establishes its bases on the islands of Inagua and Ragged Island.

The defense force took the media out to sea amid overcast weather yesterday to get a firsthand perspective of the challenges associated with spotting a vessel, miles out, in poor conditions.

When asked whether the public should be alarmed by the recent landings on New Providence, the latest of which took place on Sunday around midnight, Chriswell told reporters, “The public should be, not to say the word alarmed, but we ask for the public’s participation.

“That’s the main part. If the public now sees something and [residents] call us, and inform us of what they are seeing – what’s going on – whether it is the boating public or flying public when they are out…we are going to respond, and if it is warranted we will start the search then.

“Reduced landings [will] happen.

“We don’t know if it’s ever going to get down to zero, but we are going to keep up the efforts.

“We are going to keep trying to increase the efforts and the energies, and the manpower involved in it.

“And, hopefully, we have a good spell coming up where there is zero landings, especially now with the hurricane season.

“We need to concentrate our efforts on supporting the local population and not focusing as much on the interdiction of migrants or poachers – weapons smugglers etc.”

Chriswell said a new coastal radar system is expected to be operational in “a few short months”

Additionally, he said the defense force has been testing various drone models, which are expected to be acquired and used to aid surveillance from Ragged Island and Inagua.

RBDF Commodore Tellis Bethel said last week the drones are expected to be acquired in the upcoming budget at a cost of $1.6 million.

Twenty-six Haitian migrants were caught near Venice Bay, not far from the Coral Harbour base, after a 35-foot sloop landed early Sunday.

In February, authorities discovered a wooden sloop near Marshall Road, leading to the arrest of 25 Haitian migrants.

In December 2017, a Haitian sloop made landfall three nautical miles west of the base.

Last November, an empty Haitian sloop was found on the shoreline of Adelaide Village.

The incidents last year raised concerns about the number of illegal migrants making it to The Bahamas.

In an interview last week, Bethel said a group of marines underwent further training following the two illegal landings last year, but no one was found at fault or suspended.


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