Twelve Haitian migrants found dead in the Turks and Caicos Islands
PROVIDENCIALES - On Tuesday, the bodies of twelve Haitian migrants were found in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), where the search for survivors and other possible victims was expected to resume on Wednesday. Police found at least five of the bodies ashore after receiving a call at 6:34 am about people running into the bush in an isolated area of Providenciales, said Kevin Clarke, spokesman for the Royal Turks and Caicos Police Force.
Immigration and police officers were immediately dispatched to the area and the US Coast Guard was also asked to participate in an intensive search.
A small blue and red fishing boat was seen capsized on the beach. Clarke said the police have not yet confirmed whether it was the boat on which the migrants traveled, pointing out, "It's a very small boat… We still don't know how many persons came."
The circumstances of migrant deaths are not yet clear, but the waters off the island's northwest point can be treacherous especially during bad weather as was the case on Tuesday morning.
The northwest point of Providenciales, an isolated area with dense foliage, is very popular for Haitians who try to enter illegally on the island. It is remote from the southern island radar, which is used to detect undocumented migrants attempting to enter the territorial waters of the TCI.
A 23-year-old Haitian male was captured in the area, and he told police that the Haitian sloop “Adonai”, powered by one engine, left Cape Rouge on Sunday with 69 souls onboard (50 males and 19 females). He said that a number of persons were below the deck and others were on top. As the boat approached land, he heard a loud sound as the vessel hit a rock and it began to sink. He was able to swim and save himself.
Following extensive searches, 12 bodies were recovered (eight females and four males).
Premier Sharlene Cartwright Robinson called on the Haitian community to consider seriously the risk of loss of life in making such journeys.
“This experience must remind this community of the dangerous journey between our countries. It also brings again to national dialogue the matter of human trafficking. The truth is someone profits from this dangerous voyage with reports of persons paying large sums of monies for an opportunity for the life that is sold to them. This cannot be tolerated,” she said.
Within the last month, the government has recorded three illegal sloops making landfall and this issue continues to plague the islands, as already limited resources are having to be directed towards detention and repatriation costs.