By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
NEARLY 100 Haitians were granted a conditional discharge yesterday after admitting to entering the country illegally earlier this week.
The 94 Haitian migrants — 79 men and 15 women — have been ordered not to return to The Bahamas in the manner they did on Sunday afternoon, by boat without leave of an immigration officer to do so.
Should they reoffend, they will face stiffer penalties, such as a $300 fine each or three months in prison in default.
According to reports from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF), sometime on Sunday, RBDF officials received information of a possible Haitian sloop sighting in the Exumas. Patrol craft P-45, coxswained by Petty Officer Acadia Smith, was dispatched to investigate.
At approximately 2pm, officers on board the RBDF vessel spotted a 40-foot Haitian sloop approximately 15 nautical miles west of Highbourne Cay. The sloop and its passengers were subsequently apprehended. Another RBDF patrol craft, P-129, coxswained by Petty Officer Ronnie Neymour, assisted in the apprehension.
A total of 99 persons, inclusive of five male children, were taken into custody and transported to New Providence for further processing.
The 79 male migrants were arraigned separately before Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt and Acting Deputy Chief Magistrate Subusola Swain, while the 15 women were arraigned before Magistrate Samuel McKinney.
All of them pleaded guilty and were granted a discharge on the condition they do not repeat the same offence. The migrants were ordered to be turned over to the Department of Immigration for deportation.
Immigration officers Shandeshia Marshall and Lashandawn Adderley prosecuted the matters.