File Photo: Illegal Migrants, apprehended in Eleuthera, being transported to New Providence.

Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) at the Coral Harbour Base in New Providence reported that a total of 124 Haitian migrants were apprehended early Sunday morning, December 30th, 2018 by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force after they were discovered in Bahamian waters.

Reports detailed that sometime around 3:00 am, Patrol Craft P-125 coxswained by Petty Officer Patrick Donald intercepted a 40 – ft. sail sloop approximately 8 miles south of New Providence. HMBS Rolly Gray, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Stephen Rolle also assisted with the apprehension.  The migrants – (107 males, 17 females) have all been turned over to Immigration officials for further questioning.

The RBDF stated that they have apprehended or assisted in apprehending over 400 Haitian migrants for the year. Those migrants have since been charged before the courts for illegal landing.

In an interview on Friday, December 14th, 2018, Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) for the Eleuthera District, Mrs. Shemah Darling, estimated that as many as 500 illegal migrants had been apprehended within the Eleuthera District, with the assistance of Police, as well as information from the public, during 2018.

With transportation and manpower challenges functionally resolved on island since summer 2018, CIO Darling reported, “We have been doing continued surveillance exercises, which have yielded three to ten persons per week, being taken into custody by Immigration officials, and sent into New Providence for further processing.”

Mrs. Darling strongly warned, “We are encouraging people to not involve themselves in any illegal activity.  Even though it’s the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, we will still be on the lookout and closely monitoring for illegal immigration activity, so, we remind people to not facilitate illegal immigrants.  Our surveillance will be ongoing.  We are also continuing with site inspections.  We are warning people who are working outside of the scope of their permit – that is – not working within the job description of the permit, or not employed by the sponsor on the permit, that they will be dealt with.”  Both employee and employer would be dealt with, warned Officer Darling.

CIO Darling also announced that the Department of Immigration on Eleuthera will be going paperless.  “They have already started in New Providence,” she informed, “and in the next few months we will have the system here also.  Documents will be scanned and given back, and applicants will be fingerprinted, similar to the current passport application process.  So, we are reminding persons to gather all required documents pertaining to your application, as we will not be able to process the application without all pertinent documentation.  With one document missing, the application process will not be able to be completed.”

Changes have also taken place with reference to the cost of applying as well as permit fees, said Mrs. Darling, highlighting, “Processing fees have increased to $200.   The most popular permit used, which is the gardener/handyman/farm labourer, fee has also increased from $1,000 to $2,000.  However, registered farmers still get their permits (farm labourer) for $500.”

The new paperless system still has some bugs to work out, informed Mrs. Darling, “We are still advising persons to come in and regularize their status, and to make sure they follow up with that, and from time to time check to see how the application is coming, because with the new system, many applications have not been migrated.  So, for those who have not heard anything, we can notify New Providence and have it followed up.”