St Kitts Repatriates Haitians After They Were Rescued At Sea

(CMC) – St Kitts-Nevis police say they have detained several Haitians who were rescued when the boat in which they were travelling grounded on a reef on September 20.

In a statement, the police said that 10 individuals, including a two-year-old baby and the captain of the yacht, believed to be from Dominica, were rescued by the St Kitts and Nevis Defence Force Coast Guard after it responded to a distress call from a vessel close to the coastline.

The police said that 11 individuals were on board, including the boat’s captain, and that four of them disembarked and swam to shore.

They said while the coast guard was on the scene, two individuals were observed swimming toward the coastline and another two who made it to land were fleeing the scene.

But, the authorities said law enforcement apprehended and detained the fleeing individuals and that of the 10 rescued, nine were identified as nationals of Haiti.

The boat captain is reported to have abandoned the vessel, using a smaller boat.

But, the Dominican was identified after seeking medical assistance at the Mary Charles Hospital in Molineaux, St Kitts, a day after the Haitians were rescued.

The police have not named the captain, but said that after his release from hospital he has been arrested on suspicion of smuggling.

The government has since decided to repatriate the illegal migrants “in the interest of national security and the maintenance of the nation’s “zero tolerance” stance to human trafficking.”

The police said that on September 26, six detainees were sent back to Haiti by air and that of the remaining four, two will be flown to Port au Prince before the end of September.

It said that the authorities are awaiting the Dominica government’s consent to transport the child and mother back to Roseau.

The police statement condemned human trafficking in the region, noting “it is of paramount importance that the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis does not become a [haven] for illegal migration and human trafficking.  Both infractions pose clear and direct threats to the stellar functioning of our national security apparatus. Human trafficking is a human rights violation that the Government regards [highly seriously].”