NASSAU – PM Dr Hubert Minnis “is very disturbed” by the illegal landing of a sloop on Adelaide Beach and is awaiting a “full report” on how the landing was possible, his Press Secretary Anthony Newbold said yesterday.
The Tribune understands the Minnis administration has ordered the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBPF) and Department of Immigration officers to find the missing illegal immigrants.
In recent days, immigration officers have conducted sweeps of areas known for holding Haitian migrants after the discovery of the vessel. Despite apprehending more than 80 migrants over the past two days, immigration officials said up to press time they had not found any one who was on board when the sloop came ashore.
Mr Newbold said: “I know that the minister of national security has commented on the issue, but the prime minister still needs a report. What happened and the degree is totally unacceptable in 2017. The prime minister is also deadly serious about the December 31 deadline for illegals to get out and he will not be deterred by those who would coddle anyone who breaks the law. Being humane is fine, but breaking the law is another [thing] and we are a country of laws. Accountability is intended to be one of the hallmarks of the Minnis administration’s good governance policy.”
The sloop came ashore sometime Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
Immigration Director William Pratt said Monday he “had no idea” how such a sloop could land so close to the RBDF Coral Harbour Base and go undetected. He said the RBDF should perhaps “improve their surveillance”.
In an interview with the Nassau Guardian on Monday, National Security Minister Marvin Dames emphasised officials won’t always get it right.
“I have been in this business, and I have first-hand experience,” Mr Dames said.
“I have flown these islands and these oceans for hours not seeing a single thing in sight. And so, if you want an appreciation of just how expansive this country is, you take a tour on one of these helicopters or you take a tour on one of these boats. You travel for hours and don’t see anything. But is there anything out there? Of course. Always remember that these persons who are trying to evade the law, they have their techniques and strategies too. We have to adjust to those techniques and strategies to ensure that we are much better and we are able to interdict them on a more frequent basis.”
Kirklyn Neely, head of the Department of Immigration’s Enforcement Unit, has estimated between 150 to 250 undocumented migrants were on board the sloop.
Despite apprehending 57 illegal immigrants yesterday, Mr Neely said his department is “no closer” to finding the missing migrants.
After the second day of extensive searching, Mr Neely said immigration officers have still not found “one single person” from the sloop.
However, he said the massive searches will continue until law enforcement catches the individuals or find the information they need.
Authorities believe the immigrants who landed on Sunday morning or Saturday night had help from people already on New Providence and have warned anyone who was found hiding them would be jailed, fined or both.
“At this point, we don’t have the information we need and we have not caught anyone,” said Mr Neely.