migration

Bahamas halts 56 more Haitians at sea

 

Authorities say the 56 migrants were detained near where a search continues for victims of capsize earlier this week.

(AP) — (AP) — The Bahamas military turned its attention to 56 Haitian migrants who were spotted earlier this week near where another migrant vessel capsized earlier this week and caused up to 30 deaths, authorities said Thursday.

The Royal Bahamas Defense Forces said the new group migrants were stopped near Ragged Island and detained Wednesday as authorities were searching for more survivors or bodies from Monday’s capsizing near Harvey Cays.

Their rescue was delayed because Bahamian officials were scrambling to retrieve bodies of other migrants in the Exuma chain where a boat ferrying undocumented Haitians capsized.

Authorities have not been able to recover all the bodies in that tragedy.

The military says the migrants drowned when their boat struck ground and capsized in an area dotted with tiny islands, reefs, rocks and expanses of shallow water.

Some 111 Haitian survivors were rescued and transferred to a detention center in Nassau. Haiti’s ambassador to the Bahamas said the migrants were recovering after clinging for hours to the overturned vessel.

Envoy Antonio Rodrique said the migrants were dehydrated and weak when they were rescued, and one passenger was pregnant.

The military said the 111 survivors of the capsizing and the 56 found near Ragged Island would be held in New Providence and repatriated.

As of Nov. 5, the Bahamas has detained more than 1,500 migrants this year, 90 percent from Haiti – and surpassing last year’s number of 1,447.

Bahamas Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell said the country will seek to have talks with Haitian officials in the coming days about the uptick in migrants washing up on the country’s shores.

“What we know is that this issue comes in waves. It ebbs and flows,” Mitchell said. “It simply appears that people are more desperate and the numbers are increasing.”

Mitchell said the patterns have not changed much over the years, and the biggest challenge for the Bahamas is the sheer numbers of Haitians coming to the country.

“We have a small population under 400,000 and we are face with 10 million on our southern border who are seeking a better way of life and are either trying to get to us or are using us as a way to get to the U.S. Then we have a problem with manpower and equipment,” he said.

The Haitian Embassy is waiting for a formal request from the Bahamian government to repatriate the survivors.

The dead likely will be buried in the Bahamas.

Miami Herald Caribbean Correspondent Jacqueline Charles contributed to this report.

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