A search and recovery operation is ongoing by the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) after a boat that was carrying people suspected of trying to migrate capsized in the Caribbean waters off the coast of New Providence on Sunday. Seventeen people were found dead, including a child, according to officials.
According to reporting from the Miami Herald, the group is believed to be from Haiti or are a group of Haitian nationals, but RBDF authorities couldn't confirm with full certainty. The 30-foot boat was headed to Miami.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry wrote on Twitter that 17 people died off the Bahamas coast and said multiple others "disappeared" on July 24, writing that the news "saddens the whole nation."
The Caribbean Community regional bloc called CARICOM said, “This latest disaster brings to the fore once again the desperate situation in Haiti and the reprehensible nature of the actions of those who are trying to take advantage of people trying to escape.”
The Bahamian Defense Force said a distress call regarding a capsized vessel with "an unknown number of persons in the water" came through. A patrol unit was dispatched at around 1:24 a.m. local time on Sunday. 20 males and five females were rescued at the scene and given medical assistance, RBDF officials wrote on Facebook. Additional bodies that were trapped in the partially submerged boat were recovered. A drone was deployed in the search operation, but no additional bodies were recovered then.
Louis Herns Marcelin, a Haitian-born social scientist at the University of Miami commented on the number of women compared to men who die while migrating across bodies of water.
“Women are mostly involved in commercializing the products that result from fishing or the like,” he told the Miami Herald. “In addition, swimming activities, even for leisure, are more common among men than they are for women."
According to Marcelin and his team of researchers with the project INURED, who study migration, most Haitian migrants over the past 12 years have been young men.