By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
MORE than 100 Haitian migrants were arrested by Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers in Ragged Island over the weekend.
This latest arrest, which was part of a joint operation with the Department of Immigration and police on that island, brought the number of Haitian migrants to 537 since the first week of June, according to Tribune records.
Recently Immigration Director William Pratt expressed fears that some of the immigrants who have been flooding the country could have been convicts who fled Haiti after a prison break on that island earlier this month.
According to reports, HMBS Nassau received a tip Saturday night that Ragged Island locals had spotted a Haitian sloop in waters several miles off the southern end of Duncan Town.
With the assistance of local fishermen, island police and immigration officials, authorities conducted an immediate search of the area, which resulted in the apprehension of 105 undocumented Haitians.
The migrants, 76 males and 29 females, were removed from the vessel and taken into custody aboard HMBS Nassau commanded by Lieutenant Commander Raymond King.
Just last week, RBDF officials picked up more than 200 illegal Haitian migrants in two separate incidents that took place between August 19 and 20.
In the first incident on August 19, around 7pm, officials on routine patrol encountered and detained 124 Haitians in Flamingo Cay, off Ragged Island.
Then 12 hours later, defence force marines stationed at the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park apprehended 100 Haitian nationals aboard a sailing sloop 10 miles southwest of Warderick Wells Cay.
On July 5, 30 Haitians were detained in Abaco after being taken from a sloop that authorities intercepted.
A week earlier, on June 27, officials intercepted 102 Haitians from Hawksbill Rock, also in Exuma.
And on June 3, law enforcement officers apprehended 76 Haitian migrants from Belle Island in the Exuma chains.
During a recent visit to the Bahamas in June, Haitian President Michel Martelly lamented the loss of lives of his countrymen who make the often treacherous journey to the Bahamas in search of a better life.
He said addressing the issue was one of the reasons he came to the Bahamas to sign bilateral agreements with the government with the hope of creating the kind of opportunities that would improve Haiti’s economy and give Haitians a reason to remain at home.