Coast Guard rescues, returns 242 Haitian migrants to Port-au-Prince, Haiti

MIAMI – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Diligence returned 242 Haitian migrants to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday after the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Seneca located a grossly overloaded 50-foot sail freighter about 25 miles west of Ile de la Tortue, Haiti, Monday night.

While on a routine Caribbean Sea law enforcement patrol, the Seneca crew spotted the overloaded vessel and immediately began rescue efforts due to the large number of migrants aboard the unseaworthy vessel and rapidly increasing seas and winds in the area.

As weather conditions continued to deteriorate, a small percentage of migrants became aggressive and attempted to force their way onto the Coast Guard smallboats. A few migrants fell overboard from the sail freighter and were immediately recovered in good condition by Coast Guard smallboat crewmembers. Despite the deteriorating weather conditions and aggressive attempts by a small percentage of migrants to jump into the small boats, no migrants or rescuers were injured during the extensive effort to safely disembark the 242 migrants from the vessel. Included in the group were children, an infant, and an eight-month pregnant woman.

“If not for the patrol presence of our cutters off the coast of Haiti, there easily could have been a major loss of life in this ill-advised attempt to reach the United States illegally,” said Capt. Peter Brown, Seventh District chief of law enforcement. “Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations are as much humanitarian missions as they are border security missions. The Coast Guard will continue to rescue Haitian migrants from their peril at sea and will always do so in a professional manner that preserves the dignity of all people.”

All migrants were safely transferred to the cutter Diligence and provided basic medical care, food, water and shelter from the elements.

The Coast Guard has rescued and returned 599 Haitian migrants since Jan. 1.

The Seneca is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Boston.

The Diligence is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Wilmington, N.C.

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