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Turks and Caicos police report seven Haitian migrants found dead after boat capsized

·2 min read

Turks and Caicos police say they have recovered the bodies of seven undocumented Haitians Tuesday who authorities say were attempting to illegally migrate from nearby Haiti.

The dead were among a large group of migrants on a vessel that collided with a Turks and Caicos police marine patrol boat around 9:40 p.m. Monday, the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police said in a press release.

Police said the crew of the marine patrol boat was trying to intercept the migrant vessel as it approached land in the North West Point area of Turks and Caicos. That’s when the two vessels collided and several of the Haitians fell into the water.

The Turks and Caicos crew, with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard, rescued 64 adults — 41 men and 23 women — from the water.

Police caught another 16 men on land in North Point, according to the press release.

Authorities say there may have been more people in the group and a search will resume at dawn on Wednesday.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those who have lost their lives today,” Kendall Grant, acting commissioner of the Turks and Caicos police, said in a statement. “We were hoping for the best. Unfortunately, we are now dealing with a tragedy. It is unclear how many irregular migrants were onboard the vessel.”

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The tragedy is the latest in a worsening Haitian migration crisis that has affected islands in the Caribbean as well as South and Central America, along with Mexico and the U.S. The Turks and Caicos are a a British dependent chain located 736 miles south of Florida and 136 miles from the northern coast of Haiti, and is a popular location for Haitians fleeing violence and political instability at home and hoping to get to the U.S.

Since mid-September, more than 11,000 Haitians have been repatriated from seven countries back to Haiti, according to the International Organization for Migration. This includes two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement charter flights that arrived from the U.S. on Tuesday and one on Friday, which together returned about 129 Haitians including families.

A sailboat floats in the shallow water off Card Sound Road in Key Largo Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021.
A sailboat floats in the shallow water off Card Sound Road in Key Largo Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021.

Last week, a large group of 63 Haitian migrants arrived off the coast of a remote area of Key Largo on a sailboat. Those individuals are currently in custody at ICE’s Broward Transitional Center, immigration lawyers in Miami say.

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