In this photo provided by the Royal Bahamas Defense Force, survivors sit on a capsized boat as they are about to be rescued near New Providence in the Bahamas, early Sunday, July 24, 2022. (ROYAL BAHAMAS DEFENSE FORCE VIA AP)
NASSAU – Seventeen people died after a boat carrying dozens of Haitian migrants capsized off the coast of The Bahamas, authorities said on Sunday, as more Haitians attempt to reach the United States to flee gang violence and poverty at home.
Rescue teams recovered the bodies of 17 people, including an infant, and 25 people were rescued, Bahamian Prime Minister Philip Davis told a news conference. Davis said authorities believe they were on a speedboat heading for Miami.
"It is believed that the vessel capsized in rough seas," he said.
Immigration Minister Keith Bell said survivors indicated that they paid between $3,000 and $8,000 for the voyage
Up to 60 people may have been on board and more people were presumed missing, Police Commissioner Clayton Fernander said.
Bahamian authorities said that two people were taken into custody, both from the Bahamas, over the suspected human smuggling operation. All those on board recovered alive or dead or who were still missing were believed to be migrants from Haiti.
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The Bahamas police said the boat capsized some 11 kilometers off the island of New Providence.
The Bahamas is a frequent transit route for Haitians seeking to reach the United States. Dangerous sea voyages in rickety vessels have become increasingly common over the last year as Haitians flee poverty and rising gang violence.
Immigration Minister Keith Bell said survivors indicated that they paid between $3,000 and $8,000 for the voyage.
"We mourn lives lost of those seeking a better way of life," Bell said. "Those here with families and friends in Haiti, encourage your loved ones not to risk their lives."
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In May, a boat carrying 842 Haitian migrants bound for the United States strayed off course and washed ashore along the north coast of Cuba instead.
That same month, 11 people drowned when a vessel carrying Haitian migrants capsized near Puerto Rico.