SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The US Coast Guard said Wednesday that it recently rescued 27 Haitian migrants from the rocky cliffs of an uninhabited island that lies between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
The two-day rescue operation began on June 7 after the Coast Guard said it detected an illegal smuggling boat near Puerto Rico's Monito Island. Officials said they arrested three illegal smugglers and rescued nine of 27 Haitians who jumped into the water upon seeing the Coast Guard.
The agency said dangerous conditions prevented it from rescuing the remaining Haitians, adding that it left food, water and other supplies for them until it returned the next day to rescue the remaining 18 Haitians.
The rescue occurred almost a week before funerals were held in Puerto Rico for 11 Haitian women who died after an overloaded boat they and other migrants were on capsized near the US territory last month. Authorities believe between 60 and 75 migrants were onboard, with 38 rescued and 11 dead.
The Coast Guard said it has intervened in 64 illegal smuggling voyages from October 1 to May 31, adding that more than 1,200 migrants from the Dominican Republic and 370 Haitians have been detained. The agency said the number of Haitians detained in the past year has spiked compared with previous years.
Haiti is currently wracked by an increase in gang-related violence with kidnappings and killings on the rise as a growing number of people flee the country of more than 11 million in search of a better and safer life.