The bodies of at least 20 migrants who were travelling by boat from Venezuela to the nearby Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago were found over the weekend, officials said.
The bodies of the Venezuelans were found Saturday 6.3 nautical miles from the coast of western Guiria by the Venezuelan coastguard. Although the group of Venezuelans reportedly arrived safely on the island, they were allegedly forced to return to Venezuela. The Trinidad and Tobago authorities denied this.
Eleven bodies, including those of four children, were found at sea and other bodies were discovered on nearby beaches, according to a statement by Venezuela’s government. Officials did not say how many people in total were on the boat, but Jesús Villaroel, a Catholic priest, said a group of Venezuelans reported that two boats carrying 20 people each left last week and had disappeared.
The owner of the boat that was shipwrecked has been detained, according to Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab.
An increasing number of Venezuelan migrants are traveling to Trinidad and Tobago as they flee worsening conditions at home, with human rights organizations estimating that more than 40,000 have entered the country illegally. Last year, roughly 40 migrants disappeared following two shipwrecks.