Coast Guard Rescues 31 Dominican Migrants

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless rescued 31 Dominican migrants from a 35-foot, fiberglass yola at about 4:17 p.m. Saturday, ending a four-day search.

The rescued migrants were reported to be in good health overall with some exhaustion and dehydration.

After executing more than 20 searches in a search area that spanned more than 2,400 square miles, Coast Guard Sector San Juan search and rescue coordinators received a report at about 2:45 p.m. Saturday from the motor tanker Cap Diamant stating they had located a 35-foot yola with 31 people on board. An HU-25 Falcon jet that had just begun a flight was on-scene within nine minutes and then vectored in the Dauntless. The Dauntless crew was able to verify this was the same vessel from which the initial cell-phone distress call was made Wednesday.

While aboard Dauntless the medical needs of the migrants were attended to and they were provided food and water.

The U.S. Air Force and Forces United for Rapid Action (FURA) joined search crews from Coast Guard Air Stations Borinquen, Puerto Rico, Clearwater, Fla. and Miami, as well as the Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo, which is home ported in San Juan.

“This case highlights the important role mariners fill in search and rescue,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chris O’Neil, public affairs officer for the Seventh Coast Guard District in Miami. “The call from the Cap Diamant helped us find these people and get them help. This case also demonstrates the dangers migrants of any nationality face when they try to illegally enter the the United States from the sea.”

The 31 migrants were transferred to the Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus Sunday at about 9:35 a.m. and are undergoing biometrics screening (identification through submission of digital photographs and fingerprints).

Migrants who are found to not have criminal or derogatory immigration information after biometrics processing will be repatriated to the Dominican Republic.

Since its inception in Nov. 2006, the U.S. Coast Guard/US-VISIT Biometrics Proof of Concept has collected biometric data on more than 1,117 migrants during more than 41 at-sea interdictions in the Mona Passage. Thus far, more than 70 migrants have been brought ashore for filing of charges and prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico.

The biometric capability provides the Coast Guard with an important tool to definitively establish the identity of those interdicted at sea who may attempt to enter or re-enter the United States illegally, or who may pose a threat to national security.

Collecting biometric identification supports the U.S. Government’s efforts to target human smugglers and protect migrants put at risk attempting to enter the United States illegally from the sea.

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