By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Royal Bahamas Defence Force apprehended 16 Haitians after discovering a wooden sloop around 1am yesterday.
The officers, stationed in South Beach, first apprehended some migrants when they tried reaching shore in waters east of that area.
RBDF, police and immigration officers later found the wooden sloop in shallow waters about a quarter-mile off shore.
Authorities said they don’t know how many people were on board the boat. Yesterday the RBDF said the search is continuing in the nearby area.
This is the second group of Haitian migrants intercepted in less than a week. The RBDF apprehended 124 Haitian migrants on December 30 after intercepting a 40ft sail sloop eight miles south of New Providence.
The migrants – 107 males, 17 females – were turned over to the Department of Immigration officials for further questioning. The majority of them, excluding minors, have since been charged in court and await repatriation.
In November 2017, there was a significant public outcry after an empty sloop was found on the shoreline of Adelaide Village.
Then Immigration Director William Pratt said at the time he “had no idea” how such a large sloop could land so close to the RBDF Coral Harbour Base and go undetected, but suggested the RBDF should perhaps “improve their surveillance”.
Authorities said they believed the immigrants who landed at the time had help from people already on New Providence.
And last May, a RBDF official said the agency was working on implementing a drone programme to improve its capabilities and combat the threat of illegal migrants.
Captain Adrian Chriswell, during a tour of the waters surrounding the Coral Harbour Base, spoke about a group of illegal migrants who had landed on New Providence days earlier and the difficulties the RBDF face in preventing them from making landfall. He dispelled the notion that these migrants represent a security threat to the base.
"They come in waves," Capt Chriswell said at the time. "It depends on the weather, the conditions in Haiti at the time – the political scene, the economic scene.
"So depending on the weather, if it's looking good for the wind to bring them in, which happens a lot with these storms, they can follow the storm because it brings them up the northwest.
"You might get a wave of three, four come out at one time. Then you may go several months before the second wave comes up."
The RBDF has apprehended or assisted in apprehending over 400 Haitian migrants in 2018, officials have said.