|Changing how we respond to human smuggling|
Published: Jun 25, 2012
At least 11 people are dead as a result of a suspected human smuggling operation gone wrong off Abaco a few weeks ago. Authorities fear 10 other passengers, who remain unaccounted form the vessel ‘Cosy Time’, are dead.
Twenty-eight passengers were reportedly onboard the vessel and seven people survived. The victims are all thought to be of Haitian descent.
National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage has told the House of Assembly that one of the survivors, a man of Bahamian-Haitian descent, said he boarded the boat because his mother insisted he go to the United States on the vessel.
“The gentleman further stated that he believed each person paid a total of $5,000 a head for the journey,” Dr. Nottage said.
The Bahamas is a major smuggling zone for people and narcotics to the United States from South America and the Caribbean. However, there are usually no prosecutions for human smuggling for some reason.
Most of the people smuggled here are Haitians and many die trying to escape the poorest country in the hemisphere.
Thus far one person has been charged in connection with the deaths in Abaco. Several others have been taken in to custody for questioning. The man who has been charged is innocent until proven guilty in a court. We make no comment on his guilt or innocence, but we commend the government for this time investigating this matter seriously and seeking to bring before the court those it suspects responsible so that a jury could decide their fates.
One of the ways to slow human smuggling is to aggressively prosecute those involved. When migrants are killed in human smuggling operations those who organized the operations and those who command the vessels are criminally responsible for those deaths. Manslaughter charges should be leveled against smugglers who survive these tragic occurrences.
If we do not get tough with this heinous crime it will continue and more desperate people will lose their lives seeking better lives away from their economically challenged homelands.
The witness told police one of the boat’s engines kept cutting off, which slowed it down.
“He reported that the seas were very rough and the vessel began to take on water,” Dr. Nottage said.
“The vessel eventually capsized and everyone began to scramble to save their lives. He reported that he did his best to save other persons, but the sea was too rough, so he had to save his own life.”
We must not just view this situation as tragic. The Bahamas should use it as an opportunity to change how we deal with human smugglers. They prey on the desperation of poor people.