A group of 18 immigrants was apprehended in Bahamian waters last week and arrested on suspicion of human smuggling, an immigration official revealed on Tuesday.
The eight Dominicans, eight Indians and two Cubans were discovered drifting, just off Cay Sal Bank on Thursday by the United States Coast Guard, according to the official, who wanted to remain anonymous. They were transported to Freeport, Grand Bahama, and later flown to New Providence where they are being detained at the Carmichael Road Detention Center, the official said.
They were expected to be charged with illegal landing; however, Director of Immigration Jack Thompson told The Nassau Guardian the case is now under review.
Meantime, the immigration official said the department will likely deal with the case administratively. The immigrants reportedly left the Dominican Republic on September 5. They allegedly paid more than $5,000 each to be smuggled into the United States. However, they reported that three days into the trip they ran out of food, water and gas, the official said.
The official said a passing boat reportedly stopped and gave the immigrants water to drink.
The sail boat drifted for several days before the Coast Guard eventually intercepted it, according to the official.
The official said when cases are dealt with administratively, the parties can either pay for a ticket to travel back to their home country or they can have a sponsor pay for them. Otherwise, they would have to remain in the detention center until the government repatriates them.
The official said, when immigrants opt to pay, the money would be turned into the Department of Immigration, which would make arrangements for the airline tickets to be purchased.
The immigrants were taken back to the detention center on Tuesday.
This is the second group of people detained in the past week on suspicion of human smuggling. According to reports, a group of Brazilians was apprehended by immigration officials several days ago.
That group was also expected to be charged on Tuesday. However, Thompson said that case is also under review.