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RBDF apprehends 95 suspected Haitianmigrants off Long Isl.

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) said yesterday that 95 suspected Haitian migrants were caught on a wooden sloop in waters off Long Island.

It said this latest apprehension brought the total number of Haitian migrants intercepted in Bahamian waters to 500 for the year so far.

RBDF marines onboard the HMBS Leon Livingston Smith caught the 30-foot sloop on Wednesday. It was 19 nautical miles off Long Island and had 19 women and 72 men onboard, who all appeared to be in good health.

“The commander [of the] defense force has set forth strategic plans in efforts to ward off any potential threat of irregular migration,” the RBDF said.

“The Royal Bahamas Defence Force continues to remain vigilant in its pursuit to defend the territorial integrity of The Bahamas.”

This interdiction came weeks after a human smuggling operation ended in tragedy off New Providence.

Last month, officials found 25 people – including two Bahamian men – clinging onto an overturned twin-engine boat. Another 17 Haitians, including a little girl, died. They were found in the hull of the vessel.

Officials said the boat was headed to the US. Four men have been charged in connection with the matter.

Commissioner of Police Clayton Fernander said the majority of victims were staying on New Providence prior to the operation.

“When I say a while, just over a month,” he said.

“Some of them would have come in from various Family Islands.

“We have identified at least three of them who came by plane from Haiti about two weeks ago.”

There has been a reported surge in the number of Haitian sloops caught in waters in The Bahamas and in Florida in recent months.

Haiti has been embroiled in political and economic free fall after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last July.

In some parts of the country, gang violence has taken hold. The Associated Press reported that attempts to form a coalition government in Haiti have failed and that efforts to hold an election have not been successful.

There are reported acts of barbaric violence across the country. Hundreds of Haitians sheltered in a school in Port-au-Prince after gang violence caused dozens of deaths in a local neighborhood.

The US Coast Guard has reported that it has caught more Haitian migrants at sea this year than it did last year.

Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Commodore Dr. Raymond King said the force has noticed that Haitian migrants are now heading directly to Florida instead of The Bahamas.

He said migrants are moving along the Old Bahama Channel, which separates the northern coast of Cuba and the southern coast of the Great Bahama Bank.