In light of the recent Haitian boating tragedy, local Haitian pastors are now calling on the government to intervene in order to put a stop to human smuggling.
Twenty-eight Haitians were being smuggled from Abaco on June 10 when their boat capsized.
At least 11 people were killed, 10 were unaccounted for and seven people survived.
Passengers on board the ill fated vessel “Glory Time” reportedly paid as much as $5,000 each to leave Abaco for Florida.
During a press conference yesterday, Fr. Alain Laverne lamented the need for the government to get involved in curbing the illegal practice, which oftentimes ends in tragedy due to the risky and lengthy travel at sea.
“We’re hoping that one day that will stop because it is not fair,” Fr. Laverne said.
“Even though those people wanted to escape or leave The Bahamas, they did pay their money but we have people in The Bahamas and throughout the world whose job is really smuggling people illegally and I think the government needs to step in and try to stop that because it is not fair.”
The Haitian priest also bemoaned the fact that while Haitians risk their lives in the hopes of attaining a better one, oftentimes their children are the victims.
In this case, of the 11 bodies that were recovered, five were children.
“When we look at the children, they were in school and to see them now in the morgue, it’s really hard. I think that’s something that needs to stop because it’s a lot of people benefiting from human smuggling and that has to stop,” he said.
At least five men are expected to be charged in court this week in connection with the smuggling tragedy.
Two of the five men are from New Providence, while the remaining three are from Abaco.
According to a WikiLeaks cable released last year, many Haitians that come to The Bahamas are smuggled into the country by Bahamians.
“Migrants from poorer Caribbean countries are smuggled to or through The Bahamas, destined for the U.S., by well-established, island-hopping networks,” the cable said.
“Many are run by Bahamian smugglers based in Freeport, Grand Bahama or Bimini, two of the closest points to Florida shores.”
“Haitians have relayed stories revealing that they have been told by smugglers to jump overboard from vessels into the sea and to swim to shore when they approach Bahamian islands. Some who could not swim drowned after paying $2,000 to $3,000 to escape the poorest country in the western hemisphere.”
The cable added that such tragic incidents highlight the desperation of the migrants and indicate that the illicit Haitian migration flow to and through The Bahamas is unlikely to stop.