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PM Drew expresses regret over boat tragedy; however, SKN will not be a safe haven for people engaged in illegal activities

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by Eulana Weekes

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The tragic incident at sea involving the passengers of the vessel Jenna B remains a hot topic in the general discourse in St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda, where they sailed from, especially as the region continues to experience droves of people moving illegally.

The Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew addressed the matter during the Prime Minister’s Press Conference on Thursday, March 30.

“The recent news relating to the passengers aboard the vessel that ran aground in our waters here is also troubling. The loss of lives is indeed regretted, and our officers are working collaboratively with regional counterparts in addressing this issue.”

However, the Prime Minister declared that the individuals tasked with the responsibility of protecting the borders of St. Kitts and Nevis would continue to do so. He expressed gratitude to the agencies that were instrumental in saving lives.

“Notwithstanding, our border security agents will continue to be vigilant in protecting our borders and will not provide safe haven for those who are engaging in illegal activities.”

Dr. Drew added, “What has been discovered is that there are persons engaged in human trafficking. I think this is the first time that this would have happened with persons of this nationality, and therefore, I want to commend the Coast Guard and others who saved lives. Irrespective of how they got here, each life is precious. We wish to express regret to the families of those who have succumbed to this tragic event at sea.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Drew addressed the ongoing situation involving 14 Haitians who are seeking asylum in St.Kitts and Nevis after a vessel illegally carrying them docked in the Federation’s waters almost two months ago.

“There was a vessel carrying mostly persons of Haitian descent. That vessel was captained by those, of course, who are involved in Human Trafficking, charging persons up to $5,000 US and more to go from one island to the next; that is a crime.”

The Prime Minister added, “They were taken into custody. They are being treated with our good hospitality at the cost of the Government. I think it’s costing us at least $1,000 per day. This is not a cheap undertaking, which includes medical checks, and one of the persons is pregnant. We have to make sure, of course, that she sees an Obstetrician and gets the best care she can get in terms of medication, nutrition and so forth. So we are really carrying this financial burden, but it is our commitment to treat our Haitian brothers and sisters with the utmost humanity.”

The case involving the Haitians is still before the court, and the country awaits the final judgement.

Drew said the illegal movement of people throughout the region was one of the critical points of discussion at the recent Regional Security System Council of Ministers meeting held in Grenada on March 22, 2023.

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