Categorized | National News

Gov’t To Tighten Smuggling Penalties -Funeral Service For Boating Victims Finalised

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell wants human smugglers to not only face smuggling charges when caught, but also be charged for the lives that are lost at sea during the dangerous illegal trek.

Minister Mitchell’s comments follow the June 10 boating tragedy off the north coast of Abaco where at least 11 Haitians were killed after their vessel capsized.

The group was being smuggled into the US.

So far, only 43-year-old Alphonse Edner has been charged with that tragedy. He was recently arraigned on 11 counts of abetment to manslaughter.

Minister Mitchell said the government will take a more stern approach when it comes to prosecuting smugglers.

“I was pleased that this was just not seen as a smuggling event, but that the charge the court will have to consider is actually an abetment to a very serious capital offence because that’s what it is,” he said.

“This really led to the death of these people, so one has to look at the grievous offences and I committed also to seeking to move the penalty phase of this to another level to review the penalties to determine whether the penalties are sufficient and then where they are deemed not to be sufficient to increase those penalties.”

According to a WikiLeaks cable released last year, many Haitians that come to The Bahamas are smuggled into the country by Bahamians – many of whom are based in Freeport or Bimini, two of the closest points to Florida.

It is an illegal practice some Bahamians are benefitting from and big time.

Reports are that passengers paid as much as $5,000 each to leave Abaco for Florida.

Eleven bodies were recovered during the ill fated voyage.

Minister Mitchell said Bahamians need to be sensitised to the very serious smuggling problem here in the Bahamas.

“I’ve determined that we are going to put together a task force between immigration and foreign affairs to bump up the public education efforts on this. Then there has to be concomitant measures taken with the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Defence Force in terms of the work they are doing to make sure that the enforcement and interdiction becomes more strenuous and aggressive.”

Meantime, funeral services have been finalised for the 11 victims.

The six adults and five children will be funeralised on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. at the Beckford Auditorium on Carmichael Road.

The arrangements were finalised on Monday during a meeting with Haitian Ambassador Antonio Rodrigue.

Father Alain Laverne told The Journal yesterday today that the Bahamas Government has stepped forward to provide plots for the victims at the Southern Cemetery, just as it did in 2008 in the wake of another Haitian boating tragedy.

Haitian pastors, business leaders, along with the Haitian government will bear all the funeral expenses.

Fr. Laverne said the Haitian community is devastated over this “human tragedy.”

He asked for Bahamians’ continued prayer and support.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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