U.S. Government Repatriates 78 Haitian Nationals

MIAMI – Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Dependable repatriated 78 Haitian nationals to Cap Haitien, Haiti, Thursday, after receiving authority for the operation from U.S. interagency members.

Royal Bahamian Defense Force officials located a grossly overloaded 30-foot sail freighter about 13 miles west of Great Exuma Island, Bahamas, Saturday. RBDF officials embarked the Haitian nationals aboard their vessels and temporarily relocated to a safer area as severe weather passed through the region. Bahamian officials then contacted the Department of State to request assistance in repatriation efforts. The Department of State coordinated with interagency partners through the Maritime Operational Threat Response (MOTR) process to authorize the Coast Guard to coordinate with officials in Haiti to determine a safe repatriation location not directly affected by the earthquake and to ensure that Haitian Garde Cote personnel were available to receive them.

The Cutter Hamilton rendezvoused with the RBDF vessels Monday and transferred the 64 men and 14 women aboard the cutter. The Haitian nationals were further transferred to the Cutter Dependable Wednesday.

Once aboard Coast Guard cutters, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and necessary medical attention.

The U.S. Government remains alert to the possibility of increased illegal migration from Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and has increased its patrol presence in the Caribbean to quickly interdict would-be migrants and safely return them to their country of origin. Voyages in unseaworthy, grossly overloaded vessels are inherently dangerous and pose a serious threat to the safety of migrants from the moment they set sail until the moment they are safely aboard our cutters. There are currently no indications increased migration from Haiti by sea is imminent.

During fiscal year 2010, which started on Oct. 1, 2009, the Coast Guard has interdicted 122 Haitian nationals. The Coast Guard interdicted 1,782 Haitian nationals during fiscal year 2009.

The Hamilton is a 378-foot high-endurance cutter homeported in San Diego, Calif.

The Dependable is a 210-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in Cape May, N.J.

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