BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – FOLLOWING discussions at the local, regional and international levels, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis have repatriated 49 Haitian immigrants to their homeland, while a Dominican boat captain remains in police custody.
The Haitians had left for their homeland aboard a chartered flight from the Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw International Airport in St. Kitts.
According to a release from the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary, in arriving at that decision, the Government had held discussions with its Haiti counterpart, the United Nations’ International Organisation for Migration, CARICOM Secretary-General His Excellency Irwin LaRocque, the local arm of the Red Cross, and the local Haitian Association.
Police and immigration officials had detained 15 Haitians after they arrived in St. Kitts by boat on Sunday (Oct. 20) and attempted to check into a hotel without first clearing Immigration and Customs.
Among them were 13 males and two females, one of whom is pregnant.
They said the boat that brought them to Basseterre had left the island of Dominica, where they had been living and working for a period of time.
The Haitians also told the St. Kitts-Nevis authorities that the boat was destined for French St. Martin, but the captain left them in Basseterre instead, telling them that they had reached their intended destination.
This media house had earlier published a press release from the police, which stated that officers had responded to a report some time after 6:00 p.m. on Sunday (Oct. 20) that a group of persons had been found in the Bird Rock area claiming that their boat had capsized.
It also stated that they were taken into custody and, on the following day, the police handed them and their documents over to the Immigration Department.
Two days later (Oct. 23), the St. Kitts-Nevis Coast Guard had assisted 34 Haitian migrants after their boat was reportedly in distress.
The boat, MV Ocean King, had sent a distress signal to which Dutch Coast Guard, which was patrolling nearby St. Maarten, responded and radioed the St. Kitts-Nevis Coast Guard, requesting its assistance in rescuing the Haitians.
A communiqué from the Immigration Department had stated that the vessel was handed over to the St. Kitts and Nevis Coast Guard because the Federation was the closest port.
Such action was in accordance with international standards.
According to the release from the PM’s Press Secretary, the St. Kitts-Nevis Coast Guard had escorted the vessel to the pier at the Coast Guard base in Basseterre at about 9:00 p.m.
Following their rescue, the 27 males and seven females (one of whom is a juvenile and two of whom are pregnant) were detained along with the captain of the boat.
The captain, who is from the Commonwealth of Dominica and is no stranger to the police of that island, was previously convicted for drugs, firearms and smuggling.
Unlike the Haitians, he remains in police custody.
The PM’s Press Secretary’s release stated that on Thursday evening (Oct.24), the President of the Haitian Association in St. Kitts and Nevis, Ralph Felix, and the Association’s Assistant Treasurer, Linda LaChapelle Celestine, met with Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris and members of his Cabinet.
Felix stated that the Haitian Association did not support any illegal activities, but its members wanted to have confidence that the migrants would be treated with dignity and respect.
Dr. Harris assured the two representatives of the Haitian Association that the 49 migrants were being provided with the best care in accordance with international human rights law, and also thanked them for accepting the request for a meeting with the Government.
The Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force and the Immigration Department are actively investigating the circumstances surrounding the two incidents involving the Haitians entry into the St. Kitts.