By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
MORE than 100 Haitians were charged in court yesterday with illegally entering the country over the weekend.
The 107 migrants – 91 males, 16 females – were charged before Magistrate Kara Turnquest-Deveaux after being caught on a boat just off South Beach in New Providence on Saturday.
Yesterday’s arraignment came a day after 55 Haitians – 45 males and 10 females, some as young as 15 – were charged, convicted and ordered to be deported for trying to enter the country illegally last Thursday.
Since the start of the year, more than 300 migrants have been intercepted in three separate incidents, officials have said.
According to reports, on the day in question, officers of the Department of Immigration’s (DOI) Enforcement Unit were informed by the officer-in-charge, Harold Thurston, that four Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) officers intercepted a vessel at sea and were due to report to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre (CRDC) at 2.30 that afternoon.
When the immigration officers arrived at the CRDC, they were told that at 8.46 that morning, a team of RBDF officers aboard patrol craft P-125 coxswained by Petty Officer Brian Anderson, intercepted a red and blue, 40-foot wooden hull Haitian sailing vessel some 4.17 nautical miles off South Beach Pools in New Providence.
HMBS Lignum Vitae subsequently towed the Haitian vessel into the RBDF base at Coral Harbour, where a total of 112 Haitian nationals, including five children, were confirmed to be aboard the vessel. At around 3.53 that afternoon, the Haitians were turned over to immigration officials and transported to CRDC for further processing.
Upon arrival there, it was confirmed all of those aboard the vessel entered the country illegally.
All of the 112 migrants pleaded guilty to the offence yesterday. Magistrate Turnquest-Deveaux consequently convicted the group and ordered they all be turned over to immigration officials for processing and deportation.
Grade Two Immigration Officer Avia Beckford prosecuted the case.