By RIEL MAJOR
THE ROYAL Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) yesterday announced the development of a comprehensive programme to decentralise their operations in a bid to combat human smuggling.
The agency addressed strategic tactics in a press release highlighting a collaborative multi-layered security approach within the Family Islands to fight against illegal maritime activities like drug and weapon smuggling as well as poaching and natural disasters.
“The programme therefore involves the acquisition of ships, dredging of harbours, construction of quay walls and jetties, expansion and/or construction of bases, the acquisition of detection and tracking technologies and the strengthening of security cooperation with local and regional partners over the next five years,” the statement read.
“In essence, decentralisation’ is a long-term, sustainable solution that facilitates the implementation of short-term measures by the Defence Force in rolling back a diverse number of illicit activities. Additionally, this approach allows the Defence Force to provide necessary assistance to civilian authorities such as police, customs, immigration, the Department of Correctional Services, the National Emergency Management Agency and others.”
The trafficking of undocumented migrants is a crucial threat to The Bahamas. The RBDF stated the patterns and trends associated with the trafficking of human, gun and drugs into the country have changed.
The RBDF’s statement added: “In the case of smuggling of undocumented migrants, there have been noticeable changes with the type of vessels being used and the maritime routes taken by smugglers to enter The Bahamas.
“Smugglers are now using conventional sailing yachts, as well as motorised boats that make it more difficult to detect them. To improve their chances of evading authorities, smugglers are also networking with locals in the islands. As the Defense Force makes headway in shutting down main smuggling routes, human smugglers naturally shift to new or alternative routes. With this balloon effect in play, common smuggling routes or access points now include the traditional northward passage, as well as additional maritime corridors in the southern Bahamas.
“These access points exist from as far east as the Turks and Caicos Islands to as far west as Cay Lobos (on the ocean’s edge south of Andros Island). This southern gateway spans a distance of over 300 nautical miles (nm) making it possible for smugglers to by-pass Defence Force and US law enforcement assets operating in the south.”
The press released also highlighted the need for the collaboration of multiple tracking equipment to successfully guard the Bahamian borders.
“An effective decentralization programme should therefore incorporate a multi-layered security approach consisting of ships, aircraft, radars, drones, Automated Identification Systems (AIS), Forward Looking Infra-Red Cameras, CCTVs, space satellites, and other detection equipment to enhance operational effectiveness.”
“The RBDF also aims to strengthen our borders to prevent, monitor, detect, deter and apprehend those trying to infringe the maritime laws. The intent is to create a collaborative effort with regional partners, such as the United States, Turks and Caicos Island, the Republic go Cuba and Jamaica, by sharing information and security cooperation.
“The Defence Force also looks forward to engaging in security cooperation dialogue with its counterparts in the Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic through the office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”