RBDF apprehends more than 1,000 migrants in a year

By Rashad Rolle

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

THE Royal Bahamas Defence Force has apprehended 1,013 illegal migrants––mostly Haitians––this fiscal year, National Security Minister Marvin Dames said yesterday.

“This number reflects a significant decrease when compared to the previous cycle in which 2,130 migrants were apprehended. The decrease in apprehension of illegal migration can be attributed in part to the efforts made by the agency to improve strategic policies, increased and expansive patrols in commonly used migratory routes, intelligence gathering, and deterrence effects from the installation of a long-range radar that provides better detection capabilities,” he said.

During his budget speech, the Mount Mariah MP also revealed that 194 poachers were arrested and 11 ships confiscated this fiscal period, an increase over the previous period.

“The marine resource products seized were 109,639 lbs of fisheries products, which resulted in fines amounting to $8,437,000,” he said. “The numbers are up significantly from last year when the Royal Bahamas Defence Force arrested six poachers, confiscated six skiffs, and despite no fisheries products being seized the fines amounted to $66,000. It is duly noted that operational efforts this fiscal period resulted in the largest interdiction of poachers from the Dominican Republic in a single year, who were awarded a fine in the amount of $8.4 million. This amount represents the largest fine not only in the history of the Defence Force, but also in the history of The Bahamas.”

Mr Dames said the government is already bearing fruit from the $2.1 million long-range coastal radar donated by the United States.

“Since the installation of the radar and reconnection on March 4, 2019, we have experienced a 43 percent drop in Haitian migrant landings and a 63 percent increase in migrant vessel detections when compared to last year in the same time period,” he said. “The reduction in landings and increase in detection can be attributed in part to the deterring and detecting capabilities gained with the implementation of the new long-range coastal radar system. The second radar is expected to cost $2.6 million and preliminary construction is scheduled to commence in August of this year. It is anticipated that it will be fully operational in early 2020. Meanwhile, efforts are being made to secure a third radar, which will be installed in the central Bahamas.”

Mr Dames said Cabinet has approved a contract award to SWIFT Engineering Inc of $17.7 million over a three-year period to buy 55 unmanned aerial vehicles for the national drone programme. The short and medium range drones will assist in interdiction and surveillance efforts, he said.

He also said local contractors in Inagua have been contracted to demolish and construct three units at the defence force base for $573,000. The units will consist of two houses capable of housing six people and one medical unit to improve healthcare accommodations for people at the base.

“With reference to Ragged Island, the government recently approved $899,000 for the purchase of 33 mobile accommodation units and ancillary equipment from VanOord Dredging Company,” he said. “These self-contained units will be used initially as a subsidiary base in Ragged Island to assist with sustaining of maritime operations in the area of the eastern Great Bahama Bank until the main base is constructed.”