Categorized | National News

Search For Haitians Called Off


The search for Haitian immigrants who reportedly fell overboard while making a dangerous journey to The Bahamas over the weekend has been called off.

On Monday, reports were that at least 50 Haitians were killed after the vessel they were on ran aground near Mangrove Cay, Andros.

According to preliminary reports, at least 200 Haitians were on the vessel.

The group left Cap Haïtien, Haiti a week ago but got caught up in Tropical Storm Isaac, according to officials.

Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell told the Journal that officials were able to apprehend 192 Haitians who were being housed at the Catholic Centre and a Mangrove Cay warehouse.

He said officials spoke to a man, who claimed to be the captain of the ill-fated boat.

“There is a report circulating that said 50 people died and there is no evidence that 50 people died. Initially, there were some 50 people who made it to shore. Ultimately, we were able to rescue and detain 192 people and those 192 people – one of whom is a pregnant woman – are in custody in Mangrove Cay housed between the Catholic Centre and the warehouse at the public dock,” he said yesterday.

“This person, who identified himself as captain, said that four people jumped overboard and that maybe 12 people had drowned but we don’t know how true this is. But you don’t know whether or not this is correct. The search and rescue has been called off, but essentially those in our custody are safe and sound, receiving medical attention and food.”

It is hoped that within 48 hours the immigrants will been moved from Mangrove Cay, brought to New Providence and then flown out to Port-au-Prince.

Minister Mitchell said that he has been in contact with Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who said he would work assiduously with the Bahamian government to get the matter under control.

“I’ve spoken to him while I was in the Dominican Republic for inauguration of the Dominican president and we want to set down these talks to set down a commission, which will be reviewing this matter on a regular basis because ultimately that is the way to get on top of this to pay more attention in the same way this administration threw resources behind Urban Renewal and we think it is having an effect on crime, we think that if we put some resources into immigration, that we can break the back of it as well,” he said.
“And one of the things I think needs to be sent out is this signal that we are going to start treating these matters like criminal matters and it’s not just a slap on the wrist. We have to use the full extent of the law to get these people to spend some time in jail in The Bahamas.”

The minister said the matter will be treated as a criminal one.

“This matter needs to be treated as a criminal matter and whoever this individual is who identified himself as a captain needs to be treated as such and I think the police and director of public prosecutions will be looking at whether or not charges can be brought because this is quite a serious matter,” Minister Mitchell said.

The detainees have been examined by medical personnel and are in good health, with the exception of a few who were treated for dehydration.

In June, 11 Haitians died when their boat capsized off of Abaco.

The group was being smuggled into the US when tragedy struck.

Over the last several weeks, the Department of Immigration has repatriated hundreds of Haitian nationals.

The minister said he intends to have talks with Dominican and Haitian officials over immigration matters next month.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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