By Jasper Ward
NASSAU (Reuters) - The Bahamas has apprehended more migrants so far this year than in the previous three calendar years combined, according to figures released to Reuters, amid a steady rise in sea-bound vessels seeking to reach the United States.
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) has apprehended 2,250 migrants between January and August, compared with 2,235 total apprehensions for the 2019, 2020 and 2021 calendar years, according to figures provided by the RBDF.
"The Royal Bahamas Defence Force has seen a significant increase in irregular migration primarily from the Republic of Haiti and Cuba this year in comparison to the past two years," RBDF Commodore Raymond King told Reuters.
The figures show that 39 vessels were intercepted in 2021 compared with 15 in 2020 and six in 2019.
RBDF apprehended 1,644 migrants in 2021, 249 in 2020 and 342 in 2019.
Haiti's rampant gang violence and an ongoing economic crisis in Cuba have led to a steady increase in risky sea voyages by migrants seeking to reach U.S. shores on rickety vessels.
Seventeen people including children and a pregnant woman died after a boat carrying dozens of Haitian migrants capsized off the coast of The Bahamas last month, leading prosecutors to charge four men with manslaughter.
(Reporting by Jasper Ward in The Bahamas and Brian Ellsworth in Miami; Editing by Peter Graff)