100 HAITIAN SLOOP PASSENGERS 'INFILTRATE' NEW PROVIDENCE
(The Tribune) - By Ava Turnquest
MORE than 100 passengers who were on board a grounded Haitian sloop have "infiltrated" New Providence amid mounting concerns that illegal migrants are being assisted by residents.
Last night, immigration officials said three Haitians from the boat, which landed near South Beach Pools, had been apprehended.
Testimony from the migrants, who were caught in the area of Pinewood Gardens, revealed the ship had landed sometime Tuesday evening.
Yesterday, residents in the area described the shallow area where the vessel ran aground as a long-standing "hot spot" for illegal entry as it provides direct access to Cowpen Road.
"The problem is the people who live on the outskirts of Cowpen Road will assist the people that come off the boat," one resident said.
"They lend the migrants their cellphones so they make the contact with people who come to pick them up."
The sloop was estimated to be around 48ft in length with the capacity to hold 100 persons "comfortably."
Last night, immigration department officials said assistance from persons in the area was a likely scenario, given the location of the apprehended migrants. Officers received the call that a sloop had run aground at around 3am yesterday.
Fausteen Major-Smith, assistant director of Immigration, said: "We have many theories out there, so assistance from residents is possible.
"Whenever we get the call we respond as soon as we can, but what we suspect in this case is that the boat must have landed hours before we got the call.
"It is possible they are being encouraged by persons from here, for them to infiltrate the system just like that."
The government has continued repatriations to Haiti despite pleas from the United Nations not to deport nationals due to the country's debilitated state.
In June, Immigration Minister Brent Symonette said repatriations will continue as normal unless extremely dire conditions were highlighted in Haiti.
Last month, the immigration department repatriated a group of illegal Haitian migrants to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on a Bahamasair charter flight.
Included were 76 men, 32 women and eight children.
Eighty-six of those repatriated were among the group that landed illegally in the Yamacraw area on August 1. The remainder had been taken to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre after being found without proof of status.
Mrs Major-Smith said the department was working to organise another repatriation exercise for some time next week.