Hotel Castle Maria in McNamara is currently serving as a temporary immigration detention centre. (File photo: ALLISON VAUGHN)

An incident last week brought the total number of migrants apprehended here over an approximately two-month period to at least 86, including 52 Haitian men, women and children the government has struggled to process due to restrictions on sending them back to their violence-plagued country.

After responding to an anonymous call about people disembarking from a boat in Coxheath shortly after 6 a.m. on April 19, police and immigration officers apprehended 19 migrants who had entered the territory illegally, they said.

The group included ten Romanians, seven Haitians, one Ecuadorian and one Honduran, the Immigration Department announced this week, adding that two were minors.

“They were processed by the Department of Immigration and are currently detained and awaiting repatriation where possible,” the agency stated on April 22 in a five-sentence statement that provided no further information.

Repatriation, however, may not be possible for the Haitians any time soon.

Immigration officials did not respond this week to requests for an update, but as of March 26 at least 45 other Haitians were in custody without a clear path forward, according to information provided at the time by acting Chief Immigration Officer Nadia Demming-Hodge.

Previous incidents

The group included people apprehended in at least three recent incidents.

On Feb. 14 and 15 on Cooper Island and in nearby waters, 32 Haitians, including 11 children, were found along with the two Syrian men, according to police and immigration officials.

All told, 18 of them were males, including four children between the ages of 1.5 and 4, Ms. Demming-Hodge told the Beacon at the time.

The 16 females included seven children ranging from 1.5 to 5.5 years old.

On Feb. 29, 14 more migrants were found in an abandoned building on Virgin Gorda after entering the territory illegally, police said.

They included nine Haitians and one national each from Cameroon, Romania, Britain, Ecuador and France, Ms. Demming-Hodge said. Nine were male and five were female, including a French child, she added.

Twenty-one more migrants were apprehended March 21 in the North Sound area of Virgin Gorda: 12 Romanians, four Haitians, two Colombians, one American, an Irish national and an Ecuadorian, Ms. Demming-Hodge told the Beacon at the time.

Eighteen were male, including three children, and three were female, including an American child, she said.

Temporary detention centre

As of March 26, the migrants apprehended on Feb. 15 and 29 remained Hotel Castle Maria, which serves as a temporary immigration detention centre, along with the four additional Haitians apprehended March 21, Ms. Demming-Hodge previously told the Beacon.

“The additional 17 migrants were detained at Paradise Suites,” she wrote in an email at the time. “However,the department has since repatriated 16 individuals, resulting in 53 migrants remaining in immigration custody, 45 of which are Haitians.”

She has declined to comment on the costs of housing and processing the migrants.

Haiti violence

The violence in Haiti has escalated dramatically in recent months. A coalition of armed gangs took control of much of the country after then-prime minister Ariel Henry left in late January to sign agreements in Kenya and Guyana for an international security force to help restore order.

The gangs prevented his return and demanded his resignation. Last month, they got their wish. After Caribbean leaders met in Jamaica on March 11 to discuss a way forward for the country, Mr. Henry said his government would resign following the formation of a transition council.

The members of the council — whose mandate runs to February 2026 — were named last week and sworn in on April 25.

Mr. Henry had led the country since July 2021, following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.