On 24 July 2022, 17 Haitian migrants, including a child, were found dead while 25 others were rescued at sea after their ship sank off the coast of the Bahamas. It is believed that the speedboat capsized in rough seas while heading towards Miami with up to 60 people on board. Two people were arrested and taken into custody on smuggling charges. The Bahamas Immigration Minister said that the migrants had paid between 3000-8000 USD for the voyage.
There has been an uptick in apprehensions and deaths near the Bahamas and elsewhere in the Caribbean and near Florida in recent months as migrants and asylum seekers, mainly from Cuba and Haiti, attempt risky journeys to reach the United States. Previously, in January 2022, 118 Haitian nationals including 95 men, 21 women and two children, were spotted in Bahamian waters and were later apprehended by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.
The Bahamas operates one dedicated immigration detention facility, the Carmichael Road Detention Centre (see 23 August 2020 Bahamas update on this platform). According to section 25(4) of the Immigration Act, “A person to whom leave to land is refused may be detained, under the authority of an Immigration Officer, pending the giving of directions in his case under paragraph (1) of this section and pending his removal in pursuance of directions so given; and where any such person is on board a ship or aircraft he may, under the like authority, be removed therefrom for such detention under this subsection.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bahamas did not restrict deportations. In June 2022, 13 Cuban migrants were intercepted by U.S. Coast Guard officials. 12 adult males and one female were handed over to Bahamas Immigration officials at the Lucayan harbour. The migrants were charged with illegal landing at the Magistrates Court and were subsequently flown to New Providence to be detained pending deportation to Cuba.
While the country’s authorities have adopted certain measures against COVID-19 at the Carmichael Detention Centre, such as COVID-19 testing and the suspension of visits, the GDP has been unable to verify whether detainees were provided with vaccination against COVID-19, masks or personal hygiene supplies.
- RTS, “Au Moins 17 Migrants Morts Après le Naufrage d’Un Navire au Large des Bahamas,” 25 July 2022, https://www.rts.ch/info/monde/13265830-au-moins-17-migrants-morts-apres-le-naufrage-dun-navire-au-large-des-bahamas.html
- J. Williams-Ward & A. Kurmanaev, “At Least 17 Migrants Die After Boat Capsizes Off Bahamas,” The New York Times, 24 July 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/24/world/americas/migrant-deaths-bahamas.html
- The Guardian, “Seventeen Dead After Boat Carrying Haitian Migrants Capsizes in Bahamas,” 24 July 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/24/boat-haitian-migrants-capsizes-bahamas-dead
- A. A. Caldwell & A. Campo-Flores, “Despite Dangers, More Migrants Attempt Sea Crossing to U.S.,” Wall Street Journal, 28 May 2022, https://www.wsj.com/story/despite-dangers-more-migrants-attempt-sea-crossings-to-us-c7897647
- R. Jones, “RBDF Apprehends 118 Migrants Near Eleuthera,” Eyewitness News, 8 January 2022, https://ewnews.com/rbdf-apprehends-118-migrants-near-eleuthera
- Bahamas Local, “13 Cubans Detained in Grand Bahama,” 15 June 2022, https://www.bahamaslocal.com/newsitem/278207/13_Cubans_detained_in_Grand_Bahama.html
- A. Turnquest, “Immigration Fears Over Handling of COVID-19 Positive Migrant,” 11 July 2020, https://ewnews.com/immigration-fears-over-handling-of-covid-19-positive-migrant
- Government of Bahamas Department of Immigration, “COVID-19 Detention Centre Requests,” 20 April 2020, https://www.immigration.gov.bs/covid-19-detention-center-requests/
- Survivors of a migrant boat that capsized perch on the overturned vessel (Royal Bahamas Defence Force/Reuters, “Seventeen dead after boat carrying Haitian migrants capsizes in Bahamas,” The Guardian, 24 July 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/24/boat-haitian-migrants-capsizes-bahamas-dead)