BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS (October 31st, 2019) – The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis has repatriated a total of 49 Haitian migrants to their home country via chartered flights from Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport.
In arriving at this decision, the Government held discussions with Haiti’s government, the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM), CARICOM Secretary-General His Excellency Irwin LaRocque, the local arm of the Red Cross, and the local Haitian Association.
On Sunday, October 20th, police and immigration officials detained 15 migrants after they arrived at the country’s shores by boat and attempted to check into a hotel without first clearing Immigration and Customs. The migrants, consisting of 13 males and two females, one of whom is pregnant, said the boat that brought them to Basseterre, St. Kitts had left the island of Dominica where they had been living and working for a period of time. They also told the St. Kitts-Nevis authorities that the boat had been destined for French St. Martin. However, according to the migrants, the captain of the boat left them in Basseterre, St. Kitts instead, telling them that they had reached their intended destination of French St. Martin.
Later in the week on Wednesday, October 23rd, the St. Kitts-Nevis Coast Guard assisted 34 Haitian migrants after their boat was reportedly in distress. The Dutch Coast Guard, which was patrolling nearby St. Maarten and was first on the scene, radioed the St. Kitts-Nevis Coast Guard and requested its assistance in rescuing the migrants and taking them to safety to the nearest port, which was Basseterre, St. Kitts, in accordance with international standards.
Once rescued on that Wednesday night, 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, who is from the island of Dominica and is known to the police there. The captain, who has been convicted previously for drugs, firearms and smuggling, remains in police custody.
On the evening of Thursday, October 24th, the president of the Haitian Association here in St. Kitts and Nevis, Mr. Ralph Felix, and its assistant treasurer, Ms. Linda LaChapelle Celestine, met with Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris and members of his Cabinet.
Mr. Ralph 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.
The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis 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 migrants’ entry into the country.