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The Royal Bahamas Defence (RBDF) as well as Immigration Officials on high alert this winter anticipating a higher influx of illegal migrants, smugglers and trafficking. According to Commodore of the RBDF, Tellis Bethel the level of desperation and determination of illegal migrants has increased.

“When you’re dealing with smugglers and criminal entities these are thinking people.

“We are not dealing with a generation of people now that are just taking one approach and when they’re caught they continue along the same path. That doesn’t happen anymore.

“The level of desperation determines the degree of action and when we shift our method of operating, they get on board and they shift,” Commodore Bethel said.

Commodore Bethel indicated that although one area of the islands has seen a decline in migrant vessels, other areas are being used to smuggle them through.

“In the past we’ve had frequent landings on the Southeastern sector of our island and that has slowed tremendously and has come to a virtual standstill.

“But now we are seeing, and have clear indications that they’re moving west along the coast and we have to make the necessary adjustments,” Bethel said.

Speaking with reporters at a press conference just one day after a Haitian sailing sloop landed near Commonwealth Brewery, some three miles from the Coral Harbour base, Commodore Bethel said that migrants are not the only plight, as traffickers, poachers and smugglers’ activity increased as well.

“Certainly, we have to prepare ourselves and position patrol craft to address that issue.

“The reality of the situation also entails us conducting anti-poaching patrols. Of course, we would also be aware of the fact that, there has been the closing of the Nassau Grouper season and around this time there are a number of spawning sites that are open as well, that operations are taking place through our waters.

“For example, in the Southern Bahamas where you might have migrant trafficking and smuggling taking place around Inagua for example. Sometimes they come further west to the Ragged Island chain and the distance between those two islands is approximately 120 miles.

“While that is happening, you also have situations where poaching is taking place; foreign poaching, for example, round Inagua. And of course extensively and throughout the year, we have it in the great Bahama bank. That distance can go between the two areas an excess of 200 miles,” Bethel said.

As for the apprehension of these illegals, Commodore Bethel said that the RBDF is taking necessary measures to secure the waters.

“And so as best as we can, we have to balance the use of our resources to address these issues.

“So, the reality is we cannot be everywhere at the same time. Our approach basically is to whenever we can, make use of the intelligence that we do have and where there is lack of intelligence, we have to use our calculated guess as to where we are required to check hotspots,” Bethel said.

To ensure that apprehension of illegal migrants take place before vessels land- a short term course of action- a Multi-Agency Coastal Security Program is being developed that will include the Royal Bahamas Police Force, Immigration Officials and Customs Officers who will team up with the RBDF.

Meantime, the government has given illegals until the end of the year to voluntarily leave the country.


Written by Jones Bahamas

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