At least 28 Haitians have drowned off the coast of Abaco in the Bahamas, in the latest tragedy at sea for people seeking to leave the Caribbean’s poorest economy.
In a statement on Sunday, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) said that after two days of dive operations, “a total of 17 persons have been rescued alive and 28 bodies have been recovered from the water”.
The incident took place on Saturday when the ship carrying the people from Haiti sank near Fowl Cay, 10km off the coast of Marsh Harbour, Abaco.
Fifteen survivors and 13 dead bodies were recovered on Saturday in a joint operation between the RBDF and coastguard of the United States. On Sunday, two more survivors were found alive on a nearby cay in addition to 15 bodies in the sunken vessel.
In a post on Twitter, the US embassy in Haiti described the ship as a vessel trafficking people out of Haiti, adding: “No journey is worth risking lives – please urge families and communities: Illegal migrant & smuggling operations are dangerous and frequently end in tragedy.”
Another tragic loss of life, as 17 Haitians drown and 30 more just rescued from a vessel trafficking people out of Haiti. No journey is worth risking lives – please urge families and communities: Illegal migrant & smuggling operations are dangerous and frequently end in tragedy. pic.twitter.com/3DHH29z976
— U.S. Embassy Haiti (@USEmbassyHaiti) February 3, 2019
The RBDF added that this year alone, some 300 Haitians had been apprehended for entry without documents during four separate incidents.
In a country where more than 60 percent of the population lives on less than two dollars a day, there are frequent attempts to reach the Bahamas or Turks and Caicos without documents.
In recent years, thousands of young Haitians have migrated to Chile or Brazil, countries where visas are more easily obtained.
Although Haitians historically have gone to the US, mainly in the state of Florida, the flow of migrants has shifted to Canada and other neighbouring countries.
Since a devastating earthquake in 2010, about 60,000 Haitians have found temporary protected status in the US.
In 2017, US President Donald Trump’s administration announced it was terminating the programme but the decision has been challenged in several court cases.