17 Haitian migrants found dead after boat heading for Miami capsizes near Bahamas



Twenty-five people were rescued after their boat capsized in waters off of the Bahamas early Sunday. Photo courtesy of Royal Bahamas Defense Force/Facebook

July 24 (UPI) — Rescuers retrieved 17 bodies from the waters off the coast of the Bahamas on Sunday after a boat transporting dozens of assumed Haitian migrants in a human smuggling operation capsized in rough seas, the Caribbean nation’s president said.

President Philip Davis announced the death toll in a statement, saying the victims were 15 females, 1 male and an infant.

Twenty-five people were rescued though it is believed others are still missing, he said, adding that search and rescue operations are ongoing.

“I would like to convey the condolences of my government and the people of the Bahamas to the families of those who lost their lives in this tragedy,” he said. “My government, from the time it came to office, has warned against these treacherous voyages.”

Law enforcement officials were dispatched just after 1 a.m. on Sunday after receiving reports of a boating incident about seven miles off New Providence, the Bahamas’ most populated island.

According to preliminary information, the twin-engine speedboat with approximately 60 people on board was headed for Miami.

Immigration Minister Keith bell told reporters that 20 of the people rescued were taken into immigration custody, with some stating they had paid between $3,000 and $8,000 for the journey.

Davis vowed that those responsible will be prosecuted.

“We take this opportunity to strongly condemn the organization of smuggling operations, which risk human life and compromise our national security,” he said. “I understand the situation that many of these migrants face that would encourage them to take such great risk.

“We, however, appeal to those considering making such a voyage not to.”

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said “this new tragedy saddens the whole nation.”

“While sympathizing with the parents of the victims, I launch, once again, an appeal for national reconciliation in order to solve the problems, which are driving away, far from our soil, our brothers, our sisters, our children,” he said in a statement.

Haiti has been embroiled in conflict and turmoil for years, but the situation only deepened with last July’s assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

According to the World Food Program, violence in the capital of Port-au-Prince has put 1.3 million citizens at risk of severe hunger.

This instability has been attributed as one of the driving forces behind a spike in maritime migration to Florida.

A few days earlier, more than 100 Haitians packed onto a sailboat ran aground off of Boca Chita, Fla.

In May, 11 people were killed after their boat capsized off the coast of Puerto Rico.



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