Coast Guard repatriates 13 migrants to the Dominican Republic

A Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier (WPC-1115) crewmember inspects a migrant vessel just off Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico that was adrift and without engines with 13 migrants aboard Nov. 18, 2019. The migrants were later embarked aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Donald Horsley (1117) and transported to Samaná, Dominican Republic, where they were repatriated and transferred to Dominican Republic Navy authorities Nov. 19, 2019.

A Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier (WPC-1115) crewmember inspects a migrant vessel just off Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico that was adrift and without engines with 13 migrants aboard Nov. 18, 2019.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Coast Guard repatriated 13 migrants to the Dominican Republic and ended a two-day search Tuesday for three others who remain missing as part of an illegal migrant voyage Monday just off Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico.

The operator of a good Samaritan fishing vessel Yamilette reported finding the migrant vessel adrift Monday and taking it in tow. The Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier (WPC-1115) sighted and responded to a red flare that had been shot off by the operator of the Yamilette to alert nearby vessel traffic of the distress.

Once on scene, the crew of the cutter Joseph Napier embarked four women and nine men from the 25-foot makeshift vessel that was taking on water. The interdicted migrants reported that three men who were traveling with the group had jumped into the water when they sighted land five days earlier and attempted to swim to shore.


“Thanks to the decisive actions of the good Samaritan and the Joseph Napier crew for quickly and safely removing these persons from a life threatening situation,” said Lt. Matt Miller, Commanding Officer of the cutter Joseph Napier.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of those who remain missing,” said Cmdr. Beau Powers, Sector San Juan chief of response. “This case highlights the inherent danger of operating in the maritime domain, where migrants to often risk losing their lives far when they embark grossly overloaded and unseaworthy vessels to cross the Mona Passage.”

The crew of the Joseph Napier transferred the 13 migrants to the Coast Guard Cutter Donald Horsley for their repatriation.

Following the report of the three missing migrants, Coast Guard watchstanders directed the launch of a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter to search for them. Coast Guard rescue crews completed eight air and three surface searches covering 1,334 square nautical miles with no signs of the missing men.

Coast Guard rescue assets involved in the search were:

  • MH-65 Dolphin helicopters from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen
  • HC-144 Ocean Sentry fixed-wing aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Miami
  • Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier (WPC-1115)
  • Coast Guard Cutter Donald Horsley (WPC-1117)

Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention.

Cutters Donald Horsley and Joseph Napier are fast response cutters homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Operation Caribbean Guard is a Department of Homeland Security multi-agency law enforcement operation to support ongoing efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands being executed under the San Juan Regional Coordinating Mechanism (SJ ReCoM)/Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG).

CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA, for its Spanish acronym), in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.


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