As reports of two Haitian vessels attempting to make landfall broke early in the afternoon on Thursday, September 4, 2014 it became apparent that the relevant government agencies are facing serious “resource challenges” in effectively responding to the regular arrivals of illegal migrants.
The boats were observed in the area of Water Cay, just a few miles west of Great Cistern and moving between Pelican Cay and Snake Cay.
The Department of Immigration, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) and the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) are all presently without the use of a boat, so when the call came in they had to take valuable time out to find a boat to assist.
The RBDF acquired the assistance of a Marine Resources boat and investigated the area near Water Cay but found no boat. Meanwhile the other vessel, a 30 foot white sailboat with a Florida registry number, drifted from the Pelican Cays area towards the Snake Cay area. RBDF and RBPF personnel could only respond by land in that area.
The following day Immigration was able to confirm they had captured 28 illegal immigrants, seventeen of which were found in a safe house in Dundas Town and four of which were captured in the Snake Cay area. The others were found in the Mudd, a shanty town in Marsh Harbour.
In response to questions of Immigration’s ability to effectively respond to such instances Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Fred Mitchell told The Abaconian that “the Department is resourced challenged” and noted that this is a “general state of being for our country at this time, with a number of competing challenges.”
During the budget debates in June, Mr. Mitchell indicated that one hundred officers were approved for training which is scheduled to take place within this fiscal year after facing what he called “bureaucratic delays.”
He also added that the Dept. of Immigration is resource challenged and in need of new equipment and the ability to use electronic border control measures.
Speaking to the incident on September Mr. Mitchell said “the Department of Immigration simply has its hands full with this. Nevertheless, I am advised that additional resources are to be allocated and we are all committed to fighting this scourge.”
Mr. Mitchell said that Immigration, the RBDF and other agencies “are working as we speak to interdict those who are involved in this most recent breach of our shores. We will be vigorous in that endeavor.”
He urges the public to understand what is at stake here; that the country is under threat and he asks for the cooperation of all Bahamians in fighting this.
Mr. Mitchell also noted that there is evidence that it is being driven by some people in this country. He asked that the public cooperate with law enforcement efforts.
The public is encouraged to “not give shelter, aid and comfort to these illegal migrants,” he said. “This means either by housing, feeding them or employing them.
“The [public] should turn the illegal migrants over to the authorities forthwith. That is the only way that we can be successful in this fight,” he said.