On Christmas day, at least 18 immigrants from Haiti died when their vessel was intercepted by police and forced to reroute to the nearby Turks and Caicos Islands.
The boat, which was holding approximately 50 people - too many for the capacity - capsized while being "towed in" by police. Overloading was determined as the cause, however many people drowned, and the others had to be rescued from the water.
The Police recovered 18 bodies and are continuing to search for more with the assistance of divers and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter.
The thirty-three people that were rescued were taken to an immigration detention center, police commissioner Colin Farquhar said, adding “no further casualties are anticipated.” "The search for casualties has been called off for today due to poor light and rough seas," he explained.
A US Coast Guard helicopter had been assigned to the search, however not until the day after Christmas. Further, Farguhar said, “A scaled down search will begin again tomorrow.”
The survivors “consisted of 21 males, including one child, and 12 females. These people will be repatriated to Haiti at the earliest opportunity,” he said.
“The stricken vessel has now been removed from the water and will be central to our ongoing investigations into this matter,” Farquhar added - “We must all remain vigilant to combat illegal migration.”
Turks and Caicos, lie just north of Haiti in the Caribbean, and is a close and desired destination for Haitian migrants seeking to escape their poverty-stricken country. All in an attempt to try to find work in the construction and tourism industries on the islands.
Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office said, “we regret the loss of life. The emergency response is being led by the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force.
It is a sad day when immigrants try to get away from their deprived lives to make a better life for themselves and their families - and die in their efforts.
Since the earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, as many as 170,000 people are still struggling, living in tents and any type of housing they can find. The risk of disease is rampant as are the fears of the lack of shelter they have against the hurricanes that are common to the island.
The Turks and Caicos Islands would be highly considerate if they were to open their ports to these troubled people, and allow them sanctuary.
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