The US Coast Guard said it caught more than double the number of Haitian migrants at sea in the last six months than it did in its previous reporting period.
The Coast Guard, which adds up the number of migrants apprehended by fiscal year (October to September), said between October 1, 2021 and April 21, 2022, 3,519 Haitian migrants were apprehended, compared to 1,527 in the previous period (October 2020 and September 2021).
Many of these apprehensions were in Bahamian waters.
Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Commodore Dr. Raymond King said yesterday that the force has noticed, in the last two to three months, 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.
“So, they are moving along the northern Cuban coast and then they would cross over at Cay Sal Bank … and attempt to make it to the state of Florida,” he said.
Asked what was driving the increase, King said he believes it could be two things: the RBDF’s success in stopping migrant vessels headed to The Bahamas or the upcoming end of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s title 42 policy, which blocks migrants at the boarder from seeking asylum.
King said the end of the policy, which is expected next month, may be a “pull factor” for migrants.
The Coast Guard also reported a notable uptick in Cuban apprehensions. Between October 1, 2021 and April 21, 2022, 1,295 Cubans were caught compared to 838 in the previous period.
On April 17, the Coast Guard stopped a Haitian sloop with 132 migrants onboard. The sloop, which had 119 men and 13 women, was 95 miles southwest of Andros.
On April 11, the Coast Guard stopped a Haitian sloop 15 miles off Anguilla Cay.
On April 13, a Haitian sloop with 109 aboard, was caught near Cuba.
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.
Last week, US assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols said the situation in Haiti requires urgency.
“We believe we have to work urgently to address these problems,” Nichols told The Miami Herald.
“It’s a sense of urgency that we owe the Haitian people a better future. We’ve got to work with them and support them to get them, and that means develop, deploying resources on the ground to help Haitians get there, but also putting pressure on the actors in Haiti to come together.”
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