After several delays and hiccups, more than 400 Haitian migrants who risked their lives in search of a better life, are expected to be repatriated to Haiti today, Director of Immigration Clarence Russell said yesterday.
He said 413 migrants will be repatriated from Inagua via Bahamasair.
“We anticipate four full flights under heavy security,” Russell said.
“Women and children get priority.”
Repatriations were expected to start at 7:45 a.m. yesterday.
However, according to the Minister of Immigration Keith Bell, there were “some glitches” that prevented that from
“We’re getting some word from the Haitian government but I can say that the Department of Immigration, Bahamasair…we’re all in a state of readiness,” he said.
“I’m in communication with the minister of foreign affairs who is in direct contact with the Haitian consulate and the Haitian government. So, there is some word that repatriation exercises may not begin this morning.”
Bell said he expects all of the migrants to be repatriated by Saturday.
More than 1,000 Haitian migrants were caught by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) between September 22 and September 26.
On Wednesday, the defense force said it had intercepted another Haitian vessel off Ragged Island that morning.
The RBDF said it discovered 137 migrants on the vessel.
“These individuals will be taken to Matthew Town, Inagua, to be handed over to immigration officials for further processing,” RBDF said in a statement.
“These migrants will join the 423 migrants who are currently being housed on the island. Of this total, 278 are being held at a church hall and 144 at the newly-acquired warehouse.
“Two hundred and ninety-two migrants were also removed from Flamingo Cay and adjacent cays in the Ragged Island chain on Tuesday after their vessel became disabled.”
In total, 429 migrants and one dead migrant will be transported to Inagua, which has a population of about 1,000.
Bell said he was unable to provide details on the dead migrant.
“Of course, I sympathize with the Haitian people,” he said.
“Again, it just tells you what they are willing to risk to come across those treacherous waters to find a better way of life. I think it tells us as Bahamians that we ought to continue to thank God for what we have.”
Earlier this week, Inagua Administrator Marlon Leary said the island was “very close” to a crisis as a result of the recent influx of migrants.
“Like I said, everybody is tired,” he told The Nassau Guardian on Wednesday.
“You only have so much manpower. You only have so much persons to feed these people. You need somebody to watch them. The defense force is tired. Immigration is tired. I’m tired. Everybody is tired. It’s a strain on our resources.”
When asked yesterday if The Bahamas is experiencing a migrant crisis, the immigration minister replied, “Obviously, this is unprecedented…
“Certainly, the numbers are quite significant and it would be fool-hearted of me not to say we are in crisis mode in terms of trying to repatriate these persons.”
Bell assured that there is adequate law enforcement and other resources addressing the migrant situation in the southern Bahamas, particularly Inagua.
The recent influx of migrants follows months of instability in Haiti after its president was assassinated in July and a deadly earthquake struck the island one month later.
The International Organization for Migration’s chief of mission in Haiti, Giuseppe Loprete, said the migrants arriving in The Bahamas are coming from the southern parts of Haiti that were affected by the earthquake.
“They pay for their trips by boat and they are either intercepted or arrive to The Bahamas and some in Turks and Caicos from northern departments as well,” he told The Guardian.
“Criminal networks are exploiting migrants in these areas.”
Loprete said what is happening is “a wake-up call” for all governments and countries in the region.
“Without a common approach and an international dialogue to address the causes and possible solutions, we can only be ready for more arrivals and expulsions,” he said.