Several Haitians killed as boat capsizes off the coast of Puerto Rico

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) – Haiti’s Prime Minister Dr Ariel Henry, Friday said he was ‘deeply upset” by reports that at a number of Haitian nationals had died after their boat capsized off the coast of Puerto Rico.

The US Coast Guard reported that the majority of the illegal migrants, who died in the tragedy were Haitians including 11 women.

It said that 38 survivors, including 36 Haitian nationals, had been found and rescuers were continuing the search, about 10 nautical miles (19 kilometres) north of Desecheo Island, an uninhabited US territory between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

In a message on his Twitter account, Prime Minister Henry extended condolences to the relatives of those killed, adding “the news of the sinking of a boat off the coast of Puerto Rico which caused the death of 11 of our compatriots deeply upsets me”.

A Customs and Border Patrol helicopter first spotted the boat and people in the water who appeared not to be wearing life jackets around midday on Thursday.

On Thursday, the United States Coast Guard said it had repatriated 207 Haitian migrants to Cap-Haitien, Haiti, after they were intercepted 20 miles south of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

“We are urging families in the US to ask their loved ones not to risk their lives on this dangerous journey,” said Commander Anne O’Connell, of the Coast Guard Cutter, Campbell.

“These voyages are extremely hazardous and often involve rustic vessels that are overloaded, and lack food, water and basic safety equipment,” she added.

Since October 1, 2021, the US Coast Guard said its crews have intercepted 4,449 Haitian migrants compared to 1,527 in the previous year.

The US Coast Guard also said that its cutter, Joseph Tezanos, repatriated 44 Dominican Republic nationals to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel Wednesday following the interdiction of two illegal voyages in the Mona Passage near Puerto Rico.

“These interdictions are the result of ongoing local and federal multi-agency efforts in support of the Caribbean Border Interagency Group CBIG,” the US Coast Guard said.

“To anyone looking to take part in an illegal voyage, do not take to the sea,” warned Captain Gregory H Magee, commander of US Coast Guard Sector San Juan.

“You will be putting your life at risk, and, if caught, you will be returned to your country of origin, or you could find yourself facing criminal prosecution in US courts.”

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