Manhunt for father of five children lost at sea
NASSAU, Bahamas, Friday June 22, 2012 – Police in the Bahamas say that the father of five children lost at sea in the recent Haitian boat tragedy was the organiser of the doomed trip.
According to Bahamian police spokeswoman Loretta Mackey, Chancelaire Baptiste, 52, was the captain of the boat that took on water and capsized off the Bahamian coast. Eleven Haitians are known to have drowned, while Baptiste and five others survived.
“He was the captain,” Mackey told the press, adding that at least a dozen other Haitian migrants who were onboard are presumed missing. A search for Baptiste is now underway.
Mackey said Bahamian police have been questioning five survivors for days trying to confirm how many people were on board, who organized the voyage and what exactly went wrong.
Bahamian police have issued a bulletin for Baptiste and released his photograph. The bulletin said Baptiste was a resident of Treasure Cay, Abaco, where the trip originated.
The wanted man, known as Chancy, is a diver. Survivor reports indicate that his oldest child, Shana, unsuccessfully tried to rescue her siblings, but she died alongside them.
Eleven bodies were recovered from the boat which was carrying hopeful Haitian migrants to Florida.
The case has brought into sharp focus the desperate attempts of many Haitians to reach the United States and escape their earthquake-ravaged homeland. It adds pressure on the US government to ease the flow of migrants seeking to be united with their families there.
As the Haitian community in South Florida mourned the tragedy, advocates called on President Barack Obama to approve the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Programme. The scheme is intended to expedite approved and pending visa application so that applicants may be brought to the United States and reunited with their families.
Haitian advocates said some applicants have been languishing for up to 11 years on a waiting list in Haiti.
“Haitian Family Reunification Parole does not need an act of Congress,” said Marleine Bastien, a Haitian rights advocate in Miami. “That is why we’re so disappointed that the Obama administration has not done this, and our brothers and sisters are dying,” she added.
Campaigners have said the initiative would save lives, reunite families, regulate an orderly flow of Haitian migration, and increase the levels of remittances from Haitian Americans.
They said thousands of signatures on petitions, as well as letters from nearly 100 US Congress members, support the programme, requiring Obama’s signature to become effective.