By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The family of one of the Brazilians missing since November 6th in the Bahamas while trying to enter into the United States illegally told federal police on Friday that the human smugglers, termed ‘coyote’, who was helping their son returned all of the money the family paid for the travel.
“For us he promised that the crossing was safe and quiet. But that was not what happened. My husband pressured him so hard that he returned all the money,” Marta Gonçalves, mother of 20-year-old Diego Gonçalves Araújo, told the government news agency. Her son is among the twelve Brazilians, five Dominicans and two crew members missing.
“He [coyote] says this has never happened, people missing for so many days,” said Gonçalves adding, “He believes that they are locked up in a country in that region.”
According to Gonçalves her son left Porto Velho, Roraima, in the Amazon region, on October 14th, passed through Brasília and Panama before reaching the Bahamas. The mother said the last message she received from her son was on November 5th saying that everything was well and that the group would be attempting the crossing that night.
To Araújo’s parents the trafficker said that one of the Dominicans contacted his family twelve days after the date of the crossing and said they were trapped in a place with no energy, waiting to be released.
There has been no confirmed news of the migrants since November 6th, when they boarded the boat, according to the Brazilian Foreign Ministry. “The fear is that the boat the Brazilians were traveling in went down in the Caribbean as it left the Bahamas,” a statement on the official Brazilian government information website, Portal Brasil, read on Monday, December 26th.
The Brazilian government, through its Foreign Service Ministry (Itamaraty) issued a statement saying it is working with authorities from the United States and the Bahamas to see what may have happened to the missing Brazilians.
“Through the Brazilian Embassy in Nassau and the Brazilian Consulate-General in Miami, Itamaraty remains engaged in the search for information, in permanent contact with the U.S. and Bahamian authorities, as well as with the families of Brazilians who have disappeared,” said the press release.