The sloop that landed near Clifton Pier earlier this month.
By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE DEPARTMENT of Immigration is "tightening up" its efforts in the capital and on the Family Islands after receiving information that "more Haitian boats are on the way", according to Kirklyn Neely, head of Immigration's Enforcement Unit.
In an interview with the Tribune, Mr Neely said 114 illegal migrants, who were captured in the past few days, will be repatriated to Haiti on Monday.
"We got some information that more boats are on the way, so we have to be prepared for that," Mr Neely said.
"We expect to see more boats before Christmas and so we have our eyes and ears out in Nassau and in the Family Islands. We still have 179 illegal Haitian migrants at the Detention Centre and we will be sending 114 of them back to Haiti on a Bahamas-air flight on Monday at 8.30. As it relates to the latest boat, we still have no idea how many persons were on boat but we do know we have the captain of the boat and we expect to get more information from him."
On Monday, Mr Neely said officials are bracing themselves for an “influx of illegals," as the holiday season “usually sees about three to four” Haitian sloops illegally land throughout the islands.
His comments came moments after a boat “loaded” with Haitian migrants landed near Clifton Pier Monday morning, about three miles from Coral Harbour. This is the second time in a month that an illegal sloop has landed near the Royal Bahamas Defence Force’s (RBDF) Coral Harbour Base.
The illegal landing prompted Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip Davis to call for “heads to roll,” saying an explanation is needed from authorities.
Immigration officers and other authorities spent the week combing the area for the migrants. The RBDF said 57 people - 43 men, 11 women and three children - were taken into custody and transported to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
In November, a large empty sloop was discovered on the shoreline of Adelaide Beach. Despite extensive searches, immigration officials said no one from that boat was captured.
At the time, Immigration Director William Pratt said he “had no idea” how such a large sloop could land so close to the RBDF’s base and go undetected, but suggested the RBDF should perhaps “improve their surveillance.”
Authorities believe the immigrants who landed at the time had help from people already on New Providence and warned anyone who was found to be hiding them would be jailed, fined or both.
Last month, Mr Neely estimated between 150 to 250 undocumented migrants were on board the sloop.
The hunt for the migrants began on November 12 when the RBDF said it was investigating reports of a wooden Haitian sloop landing in the southwest area of New Providence.
Last month, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said the Bahamas is an archipelago of over 700 islands and cays, adding it is not possible to identify every vessel that comes through its borders.
“I can tell you from personal experience I’ve had many trips when I was in the police force running operations, you can go out for hours and not see anything, land, boats, or anything else. For someone to think that every vessel that comes through here should be identified, that’s not humanly possible,” Mr Dames said at the time.