By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
MORE than 100 migrants were taken into custody by immigration officials within the last two weeks on Grand Bahama, according to a senior immigration officer.
The most recent group of migrants was turned over to authorities around 4pm on Monday at Lucayan Harbour.
Immigration officer Napthali Cooper reported that 17 Cubans and a dog were intercepted and apprehended in the Cay Sal Bank area by the US Coast Guard (USCG).
Several days earlier, 35 Cubans were apprehended in two separate incidents in the Cay Sal Bank.
Mr Cooper reported that the first incident occurred on November 14 when USCG officials discovered and apprehended some 14 Cubans on Anguilla Cay. They were taken onboard the USCG Cutter Yered.
While en route to Freeport, the USCG was alerted to a second group, which was discovered the following day on November 16 at Elbow Cay. On arrival at the cay, some 21 Cubans were discovered, but refused to leave.
Mr Cooper said the group eventually conceded. They were taken into custody by USCG officials. The 35 Cubans were taken to Grand Bahama, where they were turned over to Bahamas immigration around 10am at Lucayan Harbour. They were checked by a medical surveillance team at the Public Hospitals Authority and processed at Department of Immigration headquarters.
The Cubans told Bahamian authorities that they left Cuba on a rustic vessel on November 12 and 13 in hopes of reaching the United States.
Mr Cooper said the 35 Cubans, in addition to another 30 migrants, including 17 Haitians, 10 Ecuadorians, two Brazilians and one Chinese, were flown to New Providence, where they are being detained at the Detention Centre to await repatriation.
Officer Cooper also reported that another 56 illegal migrants were taken into custody in Freeport on November 13.
He reported that officers from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force were alerted that persons were suspected of being involved in illegal smuggling activities and went to a local resort in the Lucaya area.
They arrested two men – an Ecuadorian and a Chinese - who were unable to satisfy questions about their legal status in The Bahamas.
The men were turned over to Bahamas immigration officials. They admitted that they came to Freeport to be smuggled to the US.
The Chinese national had obtained a valid work permit as a cook at a restaurant in New Providence, but it had expired in January of this year. The man claimed that he had paid a Bahamian man in Freeport $5,000 to be smuggled to the US and was told that the trip was postponed to a later day, but it never materialised.
The Ecuadorian was admitted legally in The Bahamas, but had overstayed his time in the country.
Mr Cooper said the men were processed and flown to New Providence aboard Pineapple Air, along with other 28 illegal immigrants.