At Least 17 Haitian Migrants Found Dead Off Bahamas Coast

A boat sank in the Bahamas at around midnight on Sunday, killing at least 17 people. According to the authorities, the boat was involved in a human smuggling operation and was carrying Haitian migrants who were attempting to enter the United States illegally.

The authorities have said in a press conference that the boat sank about 7 miles off the coast of New Providence island with between 50 and 60 people on board.

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17 Haitian Migrants Found Dead

Officials found the bodies of 17 people: 16 females (including a child estimated to be 4 or 5 years old) and 1 male. Twenty-five people were reportedly pulled from the water by rescuers. It is estimated that 8–12 people are still out there.

Attorney General and Acting Minister of Health for the Bahamas Ryan Pinder said that three people who were rescued from the water are still receiving treatment at a local hospital.

It appears that two Bahamians were attempting to smuggle Haitian refugees into Miami, Florida, according to the preliminary investigation, as reported by the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Phillip Davis.

17 Haitian Migrants Found Dead
17 Haitian Migrants Found Dead

Davis stated that this morning’s events did not involve new arrivals to the Bahamas but rather the departure of existing emigrants. The investigation into their arrival is ongoing.

Authorities in the Bahamas have two Bahamian nationals in custody.

Shortly after 1 a.m. on Sunday, Deputy Commander Capt. Shonedel Pinder reported that the Royal Bahamas Police and Royal Bahamas Defense Force had responded to reports of a capsized vessel, which had likely encountered “formidable weather conditions.”

In recent months, Pinder informed the media that the defense department has been stepping up its patrols and surveillance. He claimed that human smugglers have not been successful in landing anyone in the Bahamas for several months.

Last week, after receiving reports of an illegal beach landing on the west side of Nassau, immigration officers and Royal Bahamas police officers detained five Haitian nationals. In a press release, authorities say the suspects attempted to smuggle people into the country.

According to press releases from the Bahamas Department of Immigration dating back to January, at least 830 Haitian migrants have been stopped by authorities so far this year. More and more Haitians are making the dangerous journey as they attempt to escape the country’s ongoing political instability, gang violence, and poverty.

Minister of Labor and Immigration for the Bahamas, Keith Bell, has called on the public to discourage others from making the dangerous crossing in light of the recent tragedy.

“We mourn lives lost of those seeking a better way of life,” Bell said. “Those here with families and friends in Haiti, encourage your loved ones not to risk their lives.”

Davis claims that even though the number of vessels transporting migrants has increased in recent months, the Bahamas are rarely their final destination. He claimed that the islands are frequently used as a transit point by people fleeing from Haiti to the United States.

Nearly a hundred men, women, and children from Haiti were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard last month after their boat became stranded off the Florida coast. A Coast Guard statement said the boat was discovered 40 miles southeast of Islamorada in the Florida Keys. Between October 2021 and June 2022, Coast Guard crews rescued over 6,000 Haitian migrants.

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