Coast Guard repatriates 6 Haitian migrants

MIAMI — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Nantucket repatriated six Haitian migrants to Cap Haitien, Haiti, Friday morning.

The six Haitian migrants were interdicted during two separate cases Sunday.

Coast Guard Cutter CHANDELEUR ships sealCase 1: Around 9 a.m. Sunday, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) aircrew spotted a 60-foot U.S.-flagged vessel about four miles east of Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay, Fla. A CBP boatcrew interdicted the vessel minutes later to discover eight migrants and two suspected smugglers aboard. The eight migrants, which included two Sri Lankans, two Dominicans, one Jamaican, one Guyanese and two Haitians, were safely transferred to the Coast Guard Cutter Dolphin along with the two suspected smugglers. The two suspected smugglers are U.S. citizens. The cutter Dolphin crew then safely transferred the migrants and suspected smugglers to the Coast Guard Cutter Chandeleur. Monday, the two suspected smugglers, two Sri Lankans, two Dominicans, one Jamaican and one Guyanese were transferred ashore to CBP officials for further processing. On Tuesday, the two Haitian migrants were safely transferred to the cutter Nantucket for repatriation. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations special agents arrested the two alleged smugglers on criminal charges and three migrants on federal criminal charges of illegally re-entering the United States after deportation.

Case 2: Around 6:45 p.m. Sunday, a CBP boatcrew operating near St. Lucie Inlet, Fla., interdicted a 41-foot Bahamian-flagged vessel named Who Cares with one Bahamian suspected smuggler, five Haitian migrants and 78 kilograms (nearly 172 pounds) of cocaine. Sunday, the five Haitians were safely transferred to a Coast Guard Station Fort Pierce, Fla., 33-foot Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement vessel. The alleged Bahamian smuggler, who is facing criminal charges, and contraband remained with CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents. Monday, the five Haitian migrants were safely transferred to the Coast Guard Cutter Cormorant and then one migrant was brought ashore and arrested by ICE special agents pending federal criminal charges on drug smuggling. Tuesday, the remaining four Haitian migrants were safely transferred to the cutter Chandeleur and then safely transferred to the cutter Nantucket for repatriation.

“The U.S. Coast Guard regularly conducts direct repatriations of illegal migrants who are interdicted at sea when the transit distance for our Coast Guard cutter crews is reasonable, such as with illegal migrants from Cuba and Haiti,” said Capt. Steve Banks, Seventh Coast Guard District chief of enforcement. “Other illegal migrants of nationalities from around the globe are processed ashore, then repatriated by air. The U.S. Coast Guard continues to patrol the Straits of Florida and all other areas throughout the Seventh Coast Guard District area of operations to deter illicit maritime activity.”

Once aboard Coast Guard cutters, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical care.

The cutter Nantucket is a 110-foot patrol boat homeported in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The cutter Dolphin is an 87-foot patrol boat homeported in Miami Beach, Fla.

The cutter Chandeleur is a 110-foot patrol boat homeported in Miami Beach.

The cutter Cormorant is an 87-foot patrol boat homeported in Fort Pierce.

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