Hotel Castle Maria in McNamara serves as the territory’s temporary immigration detention centre. (File photo: ALLISON VAUGHN)

As gang violence continues to ravage Haiti following the Monday resignation of the country’s prime minister, at least 41 Haitian migrants are being housed in Hotel Castle Maria in McNamara while immigration officials work to navigate current restrictions on sending them home, according to Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Nadia Demming-Hodge.

They include men, women, and at least 11 children under the age of 6.

Two other migrants from Syria are in a similar situation, Ms. Demming-Hodge told the Beacon.

Two incidents

The migrants were apprehended in two separate incidents.

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

Police said at the time that a vessel transporting “suspected illegal immigrants” had been intercepted shortly before midnight on Feb. 14 during a joint operation involving the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and United States Customs and Border Protection.

All told, 18 of the migrants 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.

Second incident

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

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

On Tuesday, Ms. Demming-Hodge said that all the migrants were still housed at Hotel Castle Maria, which serves as the territory’s temporary immigration detention centre.

The first group, she said, remains in the territory nearly a month after their capture “due to restrictions on returns to Haiti and Syria at this time.”

She declined to provide further information about the way forward or the costs of housing the migrants.

Haiti violence

The violence in Haiti has escalated dramatically in recent weeks.

A coalition of armed gangs took control of most 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. This week, they got their wish.

After Caribbean leaders met in Jamaica on Monday to discuss a way forward for the country, Mr. Henry said his government would resign following the formation of a transition council.

“I’m asking all Haitians to remain calm and do everything they can for peace and stability to come back as fast as possible,” Mr. Henry said in an address announcing his resignation.

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

Crisis in Syria

Syria is also facing a humanitarian crisis after 13 years of war, according to Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of a United Nations commission of inquiry into the situation in the country.

“More than 90 percent now live in poverty, the economy is in freefall amid tightening sanctions, and increased lawlessness is fuelling predatory practices and extortion by armed forces and militia,” Mr. Pinheiro said this week.