The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) detained 17 Ecuadorian migrants and two alleged human traffickers in September 2023, as the armed forces of Caribbean nations continue to confront sources of regional instability caused by transnational criminal organizations.
Recent political upheaval in Ecuador amid rising crime rates and cartel activity has prompted tens of thousands of Ecuadorians to flee their country. That trend has only intensified in recent months, The New York Times newspaper reported. The migrants often head overland through Central America toward the United States, but many make at least part of their voyage by sea through the Caribbean.
The RBDF Bimini Contender, a boat captained by Chief Petty Officer Dirk Watson, was alerted by the Coral Harbour Operations Command Center about a distressed vessel, which the Bimini Contender located about 35 nautical miles southeast of Bimini on September 17.
RBDF officials found 17 Ecuadorian nationals — 11 males and six females — who were being illegally trafficked on board the 31-foot gray and white cabin cruiser, according to a news release from the RBDF.
“All occupants of the vessel were apprehended and handed over to the relevant authorities in Bimini for further processing and investigation,” the release stated.
Commodore Raymond King, commander of the RBDF, said in a statement that his nation’s defense force is willing to work with local law enforcement agencies on similar operations.
“Fostering enhanced collaboration between the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and local law enforcement agencies through joint operations and proactive information sharing — which serve as force multipliers and effectively address existing and potential challenges — the RBDF remains dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in guarding our heritage,” Commodore King said.
Commodore King has emphasized the RBDF’s domain awareness in its national waters, acknowledging that the thousands of islands, cays, and inlets make the Bahamas an attractive ground for transnational criminal organizations.
Securing the region against the illegal flow of narcotics and trafficked human beings is also a chief priority of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), as the Bahamas controls the southeastern maritime approaches to the U.S. homeland.