Coast Guard rescues, repatriates 90 Haitian migrants

MIAMI – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous repatriated 90 Haitian migrants to Cap Haitien, Haiti, Wednesday, after they were located at sea on a grossly-overloaded vessel Tuesday.

While conducting a routine patrol in the Caribbean sea, the crew of the Vigorous discovered a 25-foot Yola approximately 20 miles northeast of Ile de La Tortue, Haiti, heading toward the Bahamas or Turks and Caicos Islands. Vigorous crewmembers distributed life jackets to the migrants and safely transferred the 57 men, 32 women and one child to the cutter.

The Coast Guard has multiple aircraft and cutters patrolling for vessels trying to smuggle or otherwise move migrants into the U.S. or other Caribbean countries illegally. Safety of life at sea is always paramount and every effort is made to rescue persons embarked in unseaworthy craft or in peril from the sea regardless of nationality or circumstances. Many of these vessels, including the one located Tuesday, are grossly overloaded, unstable, and dangerous. These vessels can capsize quickly throwing migrants into the water. Additionally, unsanitary conditions often found aboard the vessels present significant health hazards to the migrants, many of whom have paid their life savings to embark on these ill-fated voyages. Virtually all Haitian migrants interdicted at sea will be repatriated back to Haiti into an area relatively unaffected by the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.

To date in fiscal year 2010, which began Oct. 1, 2009, the Coast Guard has interdicted 317 Haitian migrants, including 92 in April. In addition, one-hundred-thirteen Haitian migrants were interdicted by the Royal Bahamian Defense Force on April 8, 2010 and 31 Haitian migrants were apprehended after arriving ashore in Jamaica on April 10. Three Haitian migrants were apprehended by law enforcement personnel on April 12 after they landed ashore in Haulover Beach, Fla., during an apparent human-smuggling operation.

There are currently no indicators that lead the Coast Guard to believe Haitian migrants are taking to the sea in increased numbers.

Once aboard the cutters, all migrants received food, water, shelter and basic medical care.

Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Cape May, N.J.

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