A baby died in her mother’s arms after the Trinidad and Tobago coast guard fired on a boat carrying migrants from Venezuela, authorities said Sunday.
The Caribbean nation’s coast guard ship TTS Scarborough attempted to intercept a boat that illegally entered the country’s territorial waters from Venezuela on Saturday a little before midnight, a coast guard statement said.
The ship hailed the other vessel to make it stop and fired warning shots when it did not, the statement said, adding, “This measure also proved futile.”
The unknown vessel “continued with aggressive manoevres, first coming into contact with the ship’s boat and then making attempts to ram it.”
The statement said that coast guard personnel feared for their lives and fired on the engines of the boat to shut them down.
When the boat did stop illegal migrants were discovered on board, the statement said, adding a woman on board holding a baby said she was bleeding.
“The injured female was subsequently stabilised” and taken to hospital, the statement added.
“Regrettably, the infant was found to be unresponsive,” it said, extending “condolences” to the child’s family.
The boat carrying the migrants had departed Saturday night from the eastern Venezuelan state of Delta Amacuro, where an estimated six to 10 boats carrying migrants leave daily, human rights activist Orlando Moreno told AFP.
“We could see this coming because they (the coast guard) shoot on boats’ engines to stop them. In this case the protocol got out of hand,” added Moreno, who has been in contact with relatives of the deceased child.
Since 2018, more than 100 people have lost their lives in sinkings in the area between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela — only around 100 kilometers (60 miles) apart.
The route is heavily trafficked by people smugglers transporting migrants trying to escape crisis-hit Venezuela.
Boats are often overloaded and accidents are common.
According to the UN, some five million Venezuelans have fled the country of 30 million since 2015, with 25,000 choosing to go to Trinidad and Tobago, a country of 1.3 million, which says it has recorded the arrival of 16,000 Venezuelans.