MIAMI, CMC – The United States (US) Coast Guard says the crew of its cutter Vigilant repatriated 146 Haitian migrants to Cap-Haitien, Haiti on Friday, after they were interdicted about 45 miles southeast of Islamorada in the Florida Keys.
The Coast Guard said a US Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations air crew spotted the “grossly overloaded vessel on Tuesday and Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant and Station Islamorada crews diverted to the vessel.”
“Once on scene, the crews provided the people with life jackets due to safety concerns associated with the vessel being grossly overloaded. Attempting to migrate illegally by sea to the United States from Haiti is incredibly dangerous,” said Lieutenant Paul Puddington, a Coast Guard District Seven enforcement officer.
“The Coast Guard and our partners will continue to vigilantly patrol, detect, intercept and deter unsafe voyages,” he added.
On Friday, the US Coast Guard also returned eight Dominican Republic nationals, 15 Haitians and 12 Uzbek nationals to the Dominican Republic following the interdiction of two illegal voyages in the Mona Passage near Puerto Rico.
The US Coast Guard said four other Dominican Republic nationals apprehended during these interdictions are facing US federal criminal prosecution in Puerto Rico for attempted illegal re-entry into the United States.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico is leading the prosecution in this case, the US Coast Guard said.
“We remain gravely concerned for the safety of people embarking illegal voyages across the Mona Passage and ask [that] they not take to the sea,” said Captain José E Díaz, acting commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan.
“The dangers are quite evident; each of these voyages is a mass rescue case waiting to happen,” he added. “Your life will be in danger as the voyages most often take place aboard grossly overloaded and unseaworthy makeshift vessels that are highly unstable, continuously are taking on water, and have little or no adequate life-saving equipment.”
The US Coast Guard said the interdictions were the result of ongoing local and federal multi-agency efforts in support of the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG).
Since October 1, 2021, the US Coast Guard said its crews have interdicted 5,003 Haitian migrants, compared to 1,527 in Fiscal Year 2021, 418 in Fiscal Year 2020, 932 in Fiscal Year 2019, 609 in Fiscal Year 2018, and 419 Haitian in Fiscal Year 2017.