Haiti is facing an impending humanitarian crisis as “outbreak hotspot” for COVID-19
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Commodore Dr Raymond King said yesterday the multi-layered strategies of the organization has yielded success in deterring illegal migration and with the acquisition of additional assets and technological recourses, particularly in the southern Bahamas, those strategies are expected to continue to perform.
Haiti has emerged as the “outbreak hotspot” among CARICOM members with the vast majority of new COVID-19 cases among member states stemming from The Bahamas’ southeastern neighbor.
As of yesterday, there were over 1,000 cases — a first among CARICOM countries.
While the borders and airports remain closed in Haiti, natural disasters and widespread civil unrest has seen increased illegal migration attempts from the country to The Bahamas.
King, who appeared as a guest of ILTV’s “Beyond the Headlines” with host Clint Watson, was asked the about the developing humanitarian crisis in Haiti and the potential for increased illegal migration attempts to the southern Bahamas.
He said as a result of The Bahamas efforts, the defense force has observed increased illegal landing attempts toward Turks and Caicos, which as a result, has sought to strengthen its maritime patrols.
“And so, we are always cognizant that there is a balloon effect,” King said.
“Once you stop, and you hinder and you deter a traditional route, criminals naturally seek to use a different avenue.
“And so, this fight is not a fight the defense force is fighting alone.
“Our regional partners, we all experience the same common threat.
“And so, by working cooperatively and coordinately, with joint maritime interdiction operations, we are able to realize a huge success rate and to be a huge deterrent. T
“The US Coast Guard vessels, our vessels in the southern Bahamas and with those multi-layers of security assets, we will continue to do our work.
“But it is through partnerships we will be able to successfully leverage all of our resources and to achieve even greater success.”
According to King, the multi-layered security strategy involving persistent and overlapping vessel patrols, intelligence reconnaissance via aircraft, ongoing relationships with international organizations; and the use of technology, which extends the reach of the coastal radars, “provides considerable coverage to the extent that we have been able to successfully stem the tide of migrant smuggling and entry into this Bahamas”.
The islands in the southern Bahamas, which have had zero reported cases of COVID-19 have been allowed to resume full commercial activity, though the country’s borders remain closed.
After serving as acting commodore since late 2019, Rolle officially took command of the defense force after being sworn in last week.
Asked if his new strategies in recent months could be attributed for the lull in illegal migrants landings in The Bahamas, King said the strategies employed were not new, but a national security strategy that he and his predecessor inherited.
However, he said: “The government’s set strategy, border protection, there are certain strategic objectives, but the difference is — and I say this with all humility — is how you unfold that strategy. That is the difference.”
King, who noted he has spent 80 percent of his career at sea, said he understands the domain and threats well.
As commodore, King said there will be increased focus on border protection as part of a wider strategic national plan to combat crime.
Some of these objectives include the decentralization of operations across the archipelago and enhancing the organization’s maritime domain awareness, according to King.
The defense force has integrated unmanned aerial surveillance drones into its arsenal to protect the nation’s borders, as well as integrated satellite communications.
“Those will assist us in being able to detect, track and intercept targets of interest in our domain,” King said.
“The other concept is being intelligence driven, so we seek to strengthen our relationships with our partner nations.
“And nationally, the creation of the National Crime Intelligence Agency will help in terms of intelligence sharing among our sister law enforcement agencies.