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Assist migrants, says Archbishop


As the chances of survival for several dozen migrants lost in the Florida Straits waned on Wednesday, January 26, Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau lamented the “horrific tragedy” and encouraged support for migrants who feel a need to flee their homelands.

“It’s always so, so tragic when this happens,” Archbishop Pinder told The Tablet. “It’s always sad when human life is lost and maybe let’s always keep a premium on life and assist migrants whenever we can.”

Search crews continued to look for survivors on Wednesday with little luck. In two days of searching the US Coast Guard recovered one dead body with 38 people still unaccounted for, US Coast Guard Captain Jo-Ann Burdian said at a news conference. She added that chances of survival are slim.

“It’s dire,” Burdian said. “The longer they remain in the water without food, without water, it’s cold, with the marine environment, the sun, the conditions. Every moment that passes becomes much more dire and unlikely that anyone can survive.”

The search began at about 8 a.m. Tuesday, January 25, after a commercial mariner located a capsized 25-foot vessel about 40 miles east of Fort Pierce, Florida.

The mariner, whose name was not revealed, rescued a man off of the hull of the capsized vessel and kept him there until the Coast Guard arrived. The man was then taken to shore where he was treated for dehydration and sun exposure.

The survivor’s nationality was not released. However, he told authorities that he left Bimini, in the Bahamas, on the night of Saturday 22, with 39 other people aboard the vessel. The vessel capsized shortly after they departed due to severe weather in the area. The survivor was not wearing a life jacket, nor was anyone else on board the vessel.

Burdian said the operation appeared to be part of a human smuggling operation, as the vessel was on a normal route for human smuggling into the US.

The Bahamas is a popular corridor for migrants, especially for Haitians, trying to get to the US because of its geography: the southeastern-most Bahamian island, Inagua, which is less than 100 miles from Haiti.

Meanwhile, on the other end, the extreme northwest island, Bahamian island is Bimini, which is about 50 miles from Miami.

Tuesday wasn’t the first time a vessel of migrants was found on its way to the States. Burdian said in the past year about 700 people have been intercepted at sea off of the south Florida coast.

Archbishop Pinder noted that sometimes people have no choice but to flee to try and find a better situation than the one at home, which is why they risk their lives.

“People are looking for a better life,” Archbishop Pinder said. “As long as you have people living in situations where they have tremendous social, economic deprivation, and maybe even political repression, you’re going to have this kind of movement,” he told The Tablet.