Coast Guard repatriates 58 migrants to the Dominican Republic

The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Etheridge (WPC-1102) interdicts an illegal voyage of 34 migrants aboard a 30-foot makeshift boat in Mona Passage waters off the west coast of Puerto Rico July 16, 2020. The cutter Richard Etheridge repatriated the migrants July 17, 2020 to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel, along with 24 other migrants from two other illegal voyages that were interdicted by Puerto Rico Police and Customs and Border Protection marine units just off Desecheo Island and Aguada, Puerto Rico. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Etheridge interdicts an illegal voyage of 34 migrants aboard a 30-foot makeshift boat in Mona Passage waters off the west coast of Puerto Rico July 16, 2020.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Etheridge (WPB-1102) repatriated 58 migrants to the Dominican Republic Navy Friday afternoon, following the interdiction of three separate illegal voyages Thursday in the Mona Passage off the west coast of Puerto Rico.

The interdicted migrants were reported to be Dominican Republic nationals.

The multi-agency interdictions are the result of ongoing efforts in support of Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Border Interagency Group CBIG.

“I’m proud of my crew and the collaboration between the interdicting agencies involved in these cases, they ensured the safety of all 58 migrants in a fluid and dynamic environment in which three illegal voyages were interdicted within hours of each other,” said Lt. Jane Sarnecky, cutter Richard Etheridge commanding officer. “If you are considering taking part in an illegal voyage do not take to the sea, you are risking your life and the lives of everyone else aboard. The Mona Passage is dangerous and unforgiving, especially in the case of grossly overloaded makeshift and unseaworthy boats with no lifesaving equipment aboard.”

The first illegal voyage was detected Thursday afternoon by the crew of a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft, approximately 38 nautical miles northwest of Rincón, Puerto Rico. Cutter Richard Etheridge diverted to the scene, where the crew stopped the 30-foot makeshift boat and embarked the 26 men and 8 women, who were aboard.

The second migrant voyage was interdicted Thursday night by the crew of a patrolling Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine unit, just off the coast of Aguada, Puerto Rico. Cutter Richard Etheridge arrived on scene with the 26-foot migrant boat and the crew embarked the 11 migrants, 8 men and three women, from the makeshift vessel.

The third illegal voyage was interdicted late Thursday night by a the crew of a Customs and Border Protection maritime unit, approximately five nautical miles northeast of Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico. Cutter Richard Etheridge arrived on scene with the 22-foot migrant boat and the crew embarked the 13 migrants, 10 men and 3 women, who were brought aboard the cutter.

Cutter Richard Etheridge transported the 58 migrants from all three cases to Dominican Republic territorial waters, where they were repatriated to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel near Punta Cana.

Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants received food, water, shelter and basic medical attention. Throughout the interdiction Coast Guard crewmembers were equipped with Personal Protective Equipment to minimize potential exposure to any possible case of COVID-19.

Cutter Richard Etheridge is a 154-foot fast response cutter homeported in Miami.

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, in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.


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