Bahamian authorities estimate up to 60 Haitians tried to make a dangerous journey to Miami, but the boat capsized about seven miles from New Providence when they encountered rough seas.
"A multi-agency investigation is underway to determine the full circumstances surrounding a suspected human smuggling operation which has resulted in the deaths of these irregular Haitian migrants," said Hon. Philip Davis, Bahamian Prime Minister.
Among the dead are a toddler, 15 women and 1 man. According to Bahamian authorities 25 people were rescued.
Davis said investigators had determined that a twin-engine speed boat left the Bahamas about 1 a.m., apparently bound for Miami.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he sympathized with the parents of the victims.
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“This new drama saddens the whole nation,” he said. “I launch, once again, an appeal for national reconciliation in order to solve the problems that are driving away, far from our soil, our brothers, our sisters, our children.”
Immigration attorney Patricia Elizee says over the last year she's received an influx of calls from Haitians trying to get their loved ones to South Florida. Many are desperate to leave the country.
"There's currently rampant gang violence in Haiti. Kidnapping and mass killings are completely out of control in the capital. Haitians are dying of hunger, there are no jobs, there is no sense of security," said Elizee.
Less than one week ago, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted a boat off the coast of Boca Chita Key. They estimate up to 200 migrants were on board, many are believed to be Haitian.
"The current immigration system is broken which means that Haitians trying to come to the United States legally are not able to do so. For example, I have clients who qualify for a green card, but they haven't been able to get an appointment at the U.S. Consulate for almost 2 years," said Elizee.