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a646: Haitian influx to Bahamas unabated in January (fwd)

From: Daniel Schweissing <dan_schweissing@hotmail.com>

National News

Haitian influx unabated in January

Released Thursday, January 31, 2002 at 01:08 am EST by Lindsay Thompson

Haitian influx unabated in January

Immigration Department spent

over $200,000 on repatriation


Guardian Senior Reporter

In the fifth round-up of illegal Haitian immigrants during January, 226
persons, including nine children and two infants, were caught in the South
Beach area Wednesday morning.

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force patrol craft HMBS P-34, under the command of
Chief Petty Officer Anthony Russell, apprehended the large group of migrants
approximately five miles west of South Beach, shortly after eight a.m.

This followed Tuesday's seizure of 47 Haitians who were intercepted by the
RBDF while trying to enter The Bahamas illegally.

The Defence Force noted that the 30 ft. blue and white sloop transporting
the 226 refugees was "dangerously" overcrowded, therefore its boarding team
had to transfer 110 immigrants to P-43 before towing the vessel to the Coral
Harbour Base.

Upon arrival at the base, the Defence Force said a thorough count revealed a
total of 226 Haitians, 176 males, 39 females, nine children and two infants.
They were all handed over to Immigration officials, and subsequently taken
to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre for further processing.

The 36 men, eight women and three children, comprising the 47 persons caught
on Tuesday were intercepted by the marines while on routine patrol on the
vessel HMBS P-43, eight miles west of Hall's Pond Cay, in the Exumas.

According to the Defence Force, officers boarded the 28-ft sunken vessel and
made the arrest shortly after 9 a.m.

The Haitians, who were transferred to another vessel, the P-43, arrived at
HMBS Coral Harbour Base on Tuesday afternoon and were turned over to
Immigration officials.

With a total of 761 illegal Haitian immigrants apprehended by the Defence
Force for January confirmed by the RBDF, Immigration Department Director
Vernon Burrows said Wednesday the department has spent in excess of $200,000
in direct repatriation exercise of Haitians to their homeland this month

And if the influx continues, he said, Immigration would far exceed its
budget of $1 million dollars for the fiscal year July 1, 2001 to June 30,

"Unless the situation in Haiti improves, they are going to keep coming,"
said Burrows.

The first group of 237 illegal immigrants was captured on Jan. 3.

Just last week the second group of 93 Haitians was apprehended. During their
capture and rescue from the sunken sloop, four other Haitian women perished.

A day later, Defence Force divers retrieved the bodies of ten more Haitians
- seven males and three females who were apparently trapped in the sunken

Last Friday, 37 Haitians were captured in the vicinity of Nassau Harbour
attempting to enter the country without proper documentation.

Yesterday morning, the Immigration Department repatriated 164 Haitians.
There are 338 Haitians in custody; another repatriation exercise is set for
Friday, and two more on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

The social and political unrest in Haiti is forcing Haitians to flee their
homeland, especially after last year's attempted coup to overthrow President
Jean Bertrand Aristide.

An armed attack Dec. 17 on the National Palace, which the government
described as a failed coup, left at least 10 dead and 9 wounded in the
assault and subsequent violence. Aristide partisans torched and plundered
the offices of opposition parties and the homes of their leaders.

The political crisis began after reportedly flawed local and legislative
elections swept Aristide's party to power in 2000. The international
community has blocked hundreds of millions of foreign aid dollars until a
consensus is reached with the opposition.

And in one year, Haiti's economic growth rate has slumped below zero, with
political instability increasing.

"Despite our successes, we feel that we are not doing anything to curb the
arrival of illegal immigrants," Burrows said.

A majority of Haitians depended on financial support from their relatives
who lived in the United States, but after Sept. 11, that aid practically
dried up due to widespread job losses.

Copyright (c) 2001 by Nassau Guardian

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