Two Bahamian men were arrested and charged before Magistrate Ancella Evans for Assisting Illegal Landing in connection with the Haitian Nationals who were found entering Abaco on Sunday October 5.
Police officers of the Abaco Division on the seventh of October arrested 55 year old George Stuart of Marsh Harbour, Abaco and 59 year old Anderson Davis of Moore’s Island for assisting illegal landing. They both pleaded not guilty and were released on bail in the amount of $3,000.00 with one surety.
According to the Abaco Immigration Department over 90 Haitian Nationals were apprehend in the week following the October 4 landing in the area of Sandy Point. They reported that 32 were caught in the area of Hole in the Wall, 25 were captured in the Sandy Point area and 35 more were found in the Mudd and Pigeon Pea shanty towns.
They were all sent on to the detention center in Nassau.
According to the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF), acting on intelligence and working along with other law enforcement agencies, they initially apprehended twenty-four Haitian Migrants after a blue and white motor vessel landed in the Hole in the Wall area at the southern end of Abaco on October 5.
The HMBS Arthur Dion Hanna, which was on routine patrol in the central Abaco area was dispatched to Hole in The Wall to secure the migrant vessel. Additionally, Defence Force personnel stationed in Abaco, along with Immigration officials and local police searched the immediate area.
Investigations into the illegal landing revealed that eleven persons were allegedly thrown overboard during the journey from Haiti to the Bahamas and at least 100 migrants landed safely and evaded capture, according to Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell.
While addressing the House of Assembly, Mr. Mitchell said that Police, Defence Force and Immigration officers apprehended a little more than 50 migrants between Sunday and Monday, but nearly 100 more are suspected to be hiding in bushes in Sandy Point. He said Abaco “seems to be the island of choice” for illegal immigrants seeking to come into the country “because it appears they are able to melt into the population.”
He said that the interviews that they conducted on the people on board suggest that there may have been as many as 150 people on this boat. “So the search continues and we believe that people may have gone into the pine forest so they are still trying to find them
He said that “what is frightening is they said that they believe 11 people were thrown overboard on the way to the Bahamas and that is serious. Because if that is the case then it becomes more than just human smuggling.”
Mr. Mitchell said if The Bahamas does not get a handle on the immigration problem it can have serious repercussions for the country. He encouraged all Bahamians to join the fight against illegal immigration.
“We need everyone to gather behind all the objectives we have in regard to immigration policy. It will require discipline by all Bahamians. We need Bahamians to abide by the law and resist temptations to say ‘release mine and catch everyone else’s’ because immigration issues threaten to undermine the integrity of the Bahamas and I am using this opportunity to join this fight.”
In September Mr. Mitchell announced that government will impose new immigration restrictions in a bid to clamp down on illegal migration, particularly from Haiti.
This includes the consideration of a ban on people who have previously entered the Bahamas illegally and have been deported from ever obtaining legal status. As of November, the government will also impose new work permit procedures, Mr. Mitchell said.
He said the government will also mandate, as of November, that all people living in the Bahamas have a passport of their nationality.