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At least 17 Haitian migrants found dead near Bahamas in smuggling operation

Authorities believe there are still additional people missing and are continuing to search for them

July 25, 2022 5:28am

Updated: July 25, 2022 9:53am

The bodies of at least 17 Haitian migrants were found on Sunday near the Bahamas after their vessel capsized during a “suspected human smuggling operation,” authorities reported. 

The Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defense Force responded to reports of a capsized vessel about seven miles off New Providence at around 1 a.m. on Sunday, Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis said in a statement. 

At the scene, rescuers found 17 bodies—15 females, one male, and an infant—in the water. Twenty-five others who were onboard the boat were rescued and turned over to health officials. 

However, authorities believe there are still additional people missing and are continuing to search for them. 

"Preliminary investigations suggest that a twin-engine speed boat left a docking facility off West Bay Street around 1 a.m. with approximately 60 people on board. It is believed that their final destination was Miami, Florida," the Prime Minister said.

"Law enforcement officials will update you on the criminal matter as well as other rescue and recovery efforts. However, 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 added. 

Bahamas Police Commissioner Clayton Fernander said that two Bahamian men known among the police “for various offenses” were among the survivors. They were taken into custody to be interrogated. 

At least 20 others were also taken to a detention center and are being interviewed, said Immigration Minister Keith Bell. 

"Those persons have indicated that they would have paid somewhere between $3,000 and $8,000 for this fateful journey," Bell said.

The Prime Minister added that his government has warned migrants against these dangerous voyages that put people’s lives at risk. 

"We take this opportunity to strongly condemn the organization of smuggling operations which risk human life and compromise our national security. Those found to be involved will face prosecution," 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."