51 Haitian migrants on boat detained by Bahamas; authorities differ on their future

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

51 Haitians detained in Bahamas; future unclear

NASSAU, Bahamas — At least 51 Haitian migrants, including a 6-month-old infant, were detained in the Bahamas and authorities differed Tuesday on whether they would be released or face charges.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the migrants were victims of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, killing at least 150,000 people. Thousands of Haitians were already fleeing to neighboring Caribbean islands every year before the quake.

The group was aboard a 35-foot (11-meter) sloop that arrived on the Bahamas’ main island Monday night, and officials are still searching for more migrants, said Senior Lt. Sonia Miller with the Royal Bahamas Defense Force.

Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette said the migrants likely would be released after officials reviewed each case. But Immigration Minister Branville McCartney said they would appear in court on illegal immigration charges.

The Bahamas lies more than 600 kilometers (375 miles)northeast of Haiti.

Authorities say they increased the number of aircraft and boats patrolling the coasts of southern and central Bahamas after the earthquake struck.

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