Caribbean Border Interagency Group aircrews rescue 11 Cubans stranded on Monito Island, Puerto Rico

7th Coast Guard District NewsSAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Caribbean Border Interagency Group aircrews rescued 11 Cuban migrants stranded on Monito Island, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, while Coast Guard rescue crews continue searching for possible survivors of an overturned boat.

The nine men and two women were allegedly smuggled into Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic aboard an unidentified boat. They were located by the crew of a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter on patrol in the Mona Passage.

Prior to the migrants being located by the Coast Guard crew, the crew of a Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action aircraft also located an unoccupied overturned 14-foot boat, approximately one-and-a-half nautical miles west of Mona Island: however, it has not been confirmed as to whether this boat was the one utilized to smuggle the Cuban migrants to Monito Island.

“The smugglers seriously endangered the lives of the migrants by making them climb the sharp rocks of Monito Island in terrible weather conditions,” said Capt. Marc Stegman, Sector San Juan acting commander. “Our primary concern is for the safety of these migrants who are putting their lives at extreme risk.”

Coast Guard watchstanders in the Sector San Juan command Center launched MH-65 Dolphin helicopters from Air Station Borinquen to rescue the stranded Cubans from the uninhabited Monito Island.

The crew of the a Coast Guard helicopter arrived on scene and confirmed that there were nine men and two women on Monito Island waving their hands over their heads requesting assistance. The helicopter aircrew initially hoisted two migrants and transported them to Air Station Borinquen in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard aircrew returned to Monito Island and hoisted three other migrants and transported them to Air Station Borinquen.

The crew of a second Coast Guard helicopter hoisted the remaining six migrants and transported them to Mona Island, Puerto Rico. Once on Mona Island, the six migrants boarded a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Blackhawk helicopter and were transported to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Caribbean Air Marine Branch in Aguadilla. All 11 migrants were transferred to Ramey Sector Border Patrol agents Wednesday.

CBP Border Patrol agents interviewed the Cuban migrants and served a notice to appear before a U.S. Immigration Judge for further proceedings under the Cuban Adjustement Act of 1966 and its 1995 ammendment.

Monito Island is two-and-a-half nautical miles northwest of Mona Island, Puerto Rico. It is inaccessible by sea and is a subdivision of the municipality of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

In July 2006, CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Office of Border Patrol – Ramey Sector, the United States Attorney‘s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid action (FURA) in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant smuggling.

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