US Coast Guard rescues 55 Caribbean migrants stranded on Monito Island

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (CMC) – The United States Coast Guard says it rescued 55 Caribbean migrants who were left abandoned and stranded by smugglers on the uninhabited natural reserve of Monito Island, Puerto Rico.

The US Coast Guard said survivors comprise 54 men claiming Haitian nationality, and one man who claimed to be a Cuban national.

All 55 migrants were transferred to Ramey Sector US Border Patrol agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

It said the rescue involved efforts and coordination with Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) partner agencies.

The US Coast Guard said watch standers in San Juan, Puerto Rico received a communication from the aircrew of a Coast Guard HC-144 aircraft during a maritime patrol in the Mona Passage of a group of people stranded on the rocky cliffs of Monito Island, located just off Mona Island, Puerto Rico.

“Heavy sea-state conditions of six-to-eight-foot seas and the difficulty of accessing the ocean cliffs prevented rescue efforts from taking place until Thursday morning,” the US Coast Guard said.

“Once sea-state and wind conditions improved, the cutter Heriberto Hernandez’s Over the Horizon boat safely approached Monito Island. The Coast Guard crew provided lifejackets to the group before each migrant took their turns jumping into the water while holding onto a heaving line that was used by the crew to recover them from the water,” the Coast Guard added.

Captain José E. Díaz, US Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander, said “the dangers of illegal voyages in the Mona Passage are exponentially increased when smugglers leave their passengers abandoned for days in austere and dangerous environments like Monito Island.”

“Most do not realize the danger they are in until it is too late, as these voyages often take place aboard makeshift and grossly overloaded vessels, with no lifesaving equipment,” he added. “If you are thinking of taking part in an illegal voyage across the Mona Passage, do not take to the sea. It may save your life or the life of your loved ones,” he continued.

Since October 1, 2022, through December 31, 2022, the US Coast Guard said it has carried out 14 illegal voyage interdictions in the Mona Passage and waters near Puerto Rico.

It said that interdicted during this period were 419 non-US citizens including 327 Dominican Republic nationals, 91 Haitians and one of unknown nationality.

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