NASSAU, Bahamas, Friday August 31, 2012 – In the latest Haitian boat tragedy, up to 16 illegal migrants who were aboard a sloop that ran aground at the height of Tropical Storm Isaac are missing and may have died, according to the Bahamian government.
Bahamas Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell said that no bodies had been recovered, but a man who claimed to be the sail boat’s captain had said that four Haitians jumped overboard during the voyage and another 12 had drowned.
The boat, which set sail from Cap Haitien and ran aground in storm-lashed seas off Mangrove Cay on the Bahamian island of Andros, was carrying more than 200 passengers.
Mitchell said that 197 survivors from the voyage were in custody. He said the search and rescue mission had ended, adding that the survivors were in good health and been given food and water.
As the poorest nation in the Americas, Haiti has a long and tragic history of people drowning while risking their lives to escape its grinding poverty in rickety, overloaded boats bound for the United States.
Many of the doomed vessels come to grief in the area of the Bahamas, which, while not unsympathetic, condemns trafficking in persons.
“The Bahamas Government must send a strong and clear message that it is intolerant of human trafficking and illegal migration, and that the boat’s captain must be held to account,” Mitchell said. “Someone has to be prosecuted and spend time in jail for this offense.”
The Bahamian government began repatriating the migrants on Wednesday.
Mitchell noted that talks on illegal migration and human trafficking were scheduled for September with Haiti’s Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.
He is also set to hold talks with the Dominican Republic over alleged illegal poaching by that nation’s fishermen in Bahamian waters.