NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Just three days into the new year, immigration officials apprehended 54 Haitian nationals in the Abacos on Thursday afternoon.
The apprehension was the result of a joint operation between the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Immigration Department.
A statement released last night by the RBDF outlined that some 29 migrants were apprehended aboard a conventional sailing yacht near the entrance of Man O War Cay, Marsh Harbour, Abaco around 4:30 p.m. yesterday.
The 27-foot sailing vessel was anchored when authorities were alerted by local residents that Haitian nationals were being ferried ashore by a speedboat with an additional 25 undocumented Haitians aboard.
The RBDF said a total of 54 Haitians were subsequently apprehended and taken into custody as of Thursday evening by Immigration authorities for further processing.
In an interview with Eyewitness News Online, Immigration Director Clarence Russell said, “We are asking that any members of the public who might see any suspicious persons to contact immigration and we will take the necessary actions [to apprehend them] expeditiously.”
Russell said officers are still on the ground in Abaco, searching for more illegals who are believed to be at large.
He said the immigration department has managed to successfully haul the illegals in the previous two landings before the court, and looks forward to having the same process carried out expeditiously for those captured in Thursday’s illegal landing.
The first apprehension for the year was on New Year’s Day when the RBDF apprehended 23 Haitian migrants on Tuesday, January 1, in the area of South Beach Estates.
The apprehensions included 14 men, eight women and one boy. The RBDF said upon further investigation by the RBDF, police and immigration personnel, a wooden sloop was found in shallow waters about a quarter-mile offshore.
Also, just days before the new year, on December 30, the RBDF apprehended 124 Haitian migrants. Their 40-ft sail sloop was apprehended approximately eight miles south of New Providence.
The migrants, who comprised of 107 males and 17 females, were turned over to immigration officials for further questioning.
Russell said those illegals who were taken into custody before yesterday’s apprehension, have been charged before the court. The illegals, he said, all pled guilty and have been sentenced and ordered to be repatriated.
“As late as next week this crew [apprehended on Thursday] will hopefully be before the court and we are hoping to get the same results,” he said.
Russell issued a stern warning to illegal migrants to stray from setting their eyes on The Bahamas.
“The message we are sending is stay away from this country,” he said. “If you are coming in legally then you are welcome, if you are not then you are going to be pursued vigorously as swiftly and as lawfully as possible.”
Last year, the RBDF has apprehended or assisted in apprehending over 400 Haitian migrants.