Presence on the sea ramped up amid holiday illegal landings

Presence on the sea ramped up amid holiday illegal landings
A group of 44 migrants were apprehended on a Haitian sloop about a mile northwest of Norman's Cay shortly after 3pm on August 2, 2020.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Following two illegal landings over a 48-hour period on Long Island and Andros, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said the armed forces of The Bahamas and its partners have ramped up their presence and adjusted their strategies to thwart human traffickers.

“The police and defense [forces] continue to remain focused on their primary responsibilities,” Dames told Eyewitness News.

“They have been working this now since over the holidays and the weather would have certainly disrupted some patterns, but fortunately that we were able to interdict and that’s a good thing.

“Sometimes you want to catch these persons right away at sea, but sometimes shift in weather and change in plans and altered plans throws off routes and throws off strategies.

“But, at the end of the day, they knew what they were doing and they were successful.”

Dames suggested human traffickers have again changed their strategies and authorities have adjusted in kind to thwart those efforts.

Asked whether authorities were confident no migrant who illegally landed slipped through their fingers, Dames said with the recent apprehensions it is believed the vast majority of those who landed in The Bahamas were arrested.

There have been renewed criticisms of The Bahamas and the carriage of its political asylum and refugee status policies.

In response, officials have said while the pandemic has had some impact, the government continues to honor its obligation to protect these victims and upholds the dignity of all those entering the country.

There were numerous apprehensions in areas such as Exuma, Bimini and Inagua in the months following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since Saturday, there have been two illegal landings.

Forty-five Haitians — 36 men and nine women — were detained on Long Island on Saturday after a vessel came ashore in Clarence Town.

According to the Department of Immigration, the men and women received medical attention and were being held at the local community center.

The group was arraigned in a Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

According to officials, 22 men and one woman were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for illegal landing; a woman was sentenced to one year and six months to run concurrently for deceiving a public officer and illegal landing; while another 21 migrants, who pleaded guilty to the charge, were granted a conditional discharge and ordered to be repatriated at the earliest opportunity.

Another 51 Haitian migrants were arrested on Mars Bay, Andros, on Monday “after their vessel came aground”.

The 44 men and seven women were being held at the Government Complex in The Bluff.