By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
A UNITED States Coast Guard official has told migrants that “smugglers do not care” whether they live or die after 79 Haitians, including several children were transferred to Bahamian authorities over the weekend.
The 34 men, 32 women and 13 children were apprehended following two suspected smuggling operations about eight miles east of Lake Worth Inlet.
The group was turned over to Bahamian officials on Saturday.
“Smugglers do not care whether your loved ones live or die,” said Lt j g Nicholas Fujimoto, Coast Guard District Seven said, according to a press statement issued by USCG. “Don’t waste your hard-earned money on smugglers and illegal voyages.”
Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office officials notified Sector Miami watchstanders of a suspicious 30-foot boat that was taking on water on November 25, at approximately 10.30pm.
The next day, Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office officials made another notification of a suspicious 30-foot boat at approximately 9pm.
Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants received food, water, shelter and basic medical attention, USCG said. A USCG official was unable to provide further details.
In July, 17 Haitians died, including a pregnant woman and two minors, while several people are believed to be still missing.
Police suspect that some 45 people were travelling to Florida from New Providence on July 24 when their boat capsized in rough seas near Blackbeard’s Cay.
According to officials, six of the 17 people who died from the tragedy were identified, while nine unidentified people were laid to rest in early October.
At the time, newly appointed Haitian Chargé d’affaires Louis Harold Joseph, who spoke Creole and was assisted by a translator, expressed his sympathy for the victims and urged the Haitian community not to participate in smuggling operations.
“Brothers and sisters listen clearly. They (the victims) were seeking a better life and they lost their lives. We must learn from this capsize,” Mr Joseph said.
“Yes, we have a lot of problems in Haiti, but that does not mean just to leave Haiti in any condition. Don’t believe that we can just go on any organised voyage, that they love us — those people are only seeking to make money. If they did really love us they would have greater precautions in what they do,” Mr Joseph said.
Dr Antoine St Louis, president of the United Association of Haitians and Bahamians, has also expressed similar sentiments urging Haitians not to take such deadly voyages.
Mr Louis spoke to The Tribune after the funeral service for some of the migrants in October.
“It is our prayer that such a thing never happens again. That everyone who has a family will tell them this is not the way. We call those people who took their (victims) money gangsters, that’s what they are. They do not care about lives, they just care about making money.
“They are not helping the people, they are just making life worse for them,” he said at the time.
The victims were laid to rest at the Southern Cemetery, also known as Spikenard Cemetery.