The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Haiti is a member, on Monday said it is extremely saddened by the tragic loss of life at sea of a number of Haitians off the coast of The Bahamas on Sunday.
“This latest disaster brings to the fore once again the desperate situation in Haiti and the reprehensible nature of the actions of those who are taking advantage of people trying to escape,” the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat said in a statement.
It said “CARICOM will continue to work with Haiti and the international community to bring peace, security, and development to our sister nation.
“CARICOM looks forward to the apprehension and bringing to justice of those who prey on the hopes and aspirations of vulnerable persons.”
At least 17 people died, and 25 others were rescued after a boat believed to be involved in a human smuggling operation, capsized just off the coast of New Providence early Sunday. The authorities believe that the boat was headed for Miami in the United States.
Immigration officials said survivors told them that they paid between US$3,000 and US$8,000 for the voyage.
Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis, said the vessel left a docking facility at approximately 1:00 a.m., with approximately 60 people on board.
Davis said the Royal Bahamas Police Force and Defence Force responded to reports of the boating incident seven miles off New Providence shortly after.
“My government, since the time it came into office, has continually warned against these treacherous voyages. We have increased surveillance on land and sea and intensified patrols. We take this opportunity to strongly condemn the organization of smuggling operations which risk human life and comprise our national security.”
The authorities said 16 of the fatalities were women and the other was a male toddler, all believed to be Haitian migrants living in the Bahamas. Three of those rescued, including two Bahamian men, were admitted to hospital.
The Bahamians are also in police custody.
CARICOM said it is extending condolences to the relatives of those who lost their lives and to the Government and people of Haiti.