BVI REPATRIATES HAITIAN REFUGEES
(Virgin Islands Daily News) - By Daniel Shea - Staff
Fourteen of the 25 surviving illegal migrants who crashed in a small boat off Tortola on Dec. 6 were repatriated to Haiti, according to the British Virgin Islands Immigration Department.
The group was taken back to Haiti on a flight more than a week ago, said BVI Chief Immigration Officer Dennis Jennings.
The migrants were among a group of more than 30 passengers aboard a 25-foot fiberglass boat that crashed into the reef off Brandywine Bay on Tortola's south coast in the early morning Dec. 6, gashing a 3-foot hole in the bow of the boat named "Jesus." When the boat struck the reef, it sent the passengers flying out and into the dark seas.
Twenty-five people survived, while eight perished, the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force said.
Four of the eight people who died were minors, and the other victims were two men and two women, according to BVI police.
The vessel was fleeing the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Reef Shark, after a Dutch Dash-8 aircraft crew alerted the Coast Guard about the boat headed from St. Maarten toward the Virgin Islands.
In the hours following the crash, the Coast Guard and British Virgin Islands rescue crews worked to pull survivors from the water.
Jennings said the 11 remaining migrants still are on Tortola for a number of reasons, including potential prosecution.
Police had interest in five Haitians and one man from the Dominican Republic, who are suspected of human smuggling, Jennings said.
Three others are relatives of those who perished, Jennings said.
"In view of this, arrangements have been made for them to remain in the territory a while longer for recovery purposes," he said.
Two others awaiting return to their home countries are a man from the Dominican Republic and a Zimbabwean - far from his homeland in southern Africa.
The man suspected of captaining the boat, 60-year-old Roro Edourne, was charged with smuggling migrants and having an unsafe conveyance after the accident, police said.
Edourne also has been charged with eight counts of manslaughter and remains in custody, said BVI Police spokeswoman Diane Drayton.