Coast Guard rescues, returns 125 Haitian migrants

MIAMI – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Seneca repatriated 125 Haitian migrants to Cap-Haitien, Haiti, Thursday, after they were located at sea Tuesday.

This was the second of two migrant vessel interdictions Tuesday involving Haitian migrants.

While conducting a routine patrol in the Caribbean Sea, Seneca crewmembers received a report of a northbound 55-foot, grossly-overloaded Haitian sail freighter approximately 30 miles north of Punta Gorda, Cuba, and made best speed to the vessel’s position. Seneca crewmembers distributed life jackets to the migrants and safely transferred the 100 men, 14 women and 11 children to the cutter without incident. Due to the instability of the 55-foot vessel, Seneca boat crews carefully and skillfully maneuvered the cutter small boats alongside the vessel to ensure it did not capsize during the transfer process. To see what can happen when a grossly-overloaded migrant vessel loses stability, click here to view video from a migrant rescue involving the Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless on May 9, 2008.

“It was a long and exhausting evolution, but everything went well,” said Seaman Joseph Winters, a crewmember aboard the Seneca.

Ninety Haitian migrants were repatriated to Cap Haitien, Haiti, Wednesday after they were interdicted at sea in a grossly-overloaded 25-foot Yola approximately 20 miles northeast of Ile de La Tortue, Haiti, heading toward the Bahamas or Turks and Caicos Islands. To date in fiscal year 2010, which began Oct. 1, 2009, the Coast Guard has interdicted 442 Haitian migrants, including 217 in April. These numbers are consistent with normal illegal migration levels from Haiti and there are currently no indicators that lead the Coast Guard to believe Haitian migrants are taking to the sea in increased numbers since the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.

The Coast Guard has multiple aircraft and cutters patrolling the Caribbean for vessels trying to smuggle or otherwise move migrants into the U.S. or other Caribbean countries illegally. Virtually all Haitian migrants interdicted at sea will be repatriated back to Haiti into an area relatively unaffected by the earthquake.

Once aboard the cutter, all migrants received food, water, shelter and basic medical care, if needed.

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

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