NEARLY 200 Haitian migrants were apprehended during a joint operation by law enforcement officers in waters off Inagua.
According to a statement from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, authorities have stepped up enforcement efforts at the country’s southern border, because it continues “to be an area of concern” for the agency.
The RBDF said as a result of this and shared intelligence, 185 Haitian migrants were apprehended late Friday during a joint operation by the RBDF, Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos (OPBAT - a tripartite agreement between the US, Turks and Caicos and Bahamas) and Turks and Caicos authorities.
“While on routine patrol, an OPBAT helicopter spotted a 30-foot low profile, wooden vessel at 5pm approximately 24 (nautical miles) off Little Inagua with an unknown number of persons onboard,” the RBDF said. “Turks and Caicos authorities, OPBAT and the defence force operations were immediately alerted, and each entity directed an asset assigned to the area to intercept.”
HMBS Bahamas arrived on scene shortly after 11pm with permission from Turks and Caicos foreign affairs officials to assist in removing the migrants from their unsafe sloop. Eighty-four migrants were taken aboard the USCG Cutter, which was transferred to TCI authorities, and the 101 migrants onboard HMBS Bahamas were transported to Mathew Town, Inagua for further processing by immigration authorities on that island.
The RBDF said it has been implementing measures to address threats and challenges of the influx of migrants from Haiti, “especially as the southeasterly winds become more favourable for an easier sojourn into the Bahamas from Haiti and also in light of the more than two months of demonstrations that the neighbouring country has been experiencing in recent times.”
The agency also said: “The Royal Bahamas Defence Force is actively monitoring changes in illicit trends and patterns which are expected to occur and for which the RBDF must anticipate, adapt and adjust for proactively.”