Migrants at sea.
MIAMI – The United States Coast Guard says it has rescued 151 Haitian migrants and handed them over to the Royal Bahamian Defence Force on Friday.
“The transfer is a combination of two separate interdiction cases in which Coast Guard aircrews and cutter crews located and rescued these migrants,” the US Coast Guard said.
It said a Coast Guard Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew had located an overloaded 40-foot Haitian sail freighter Friday about 35 miles south of Ragged Island, Bahamas.
“The Coast Guard Cutter Seneca was diverted to the scene, and safely interdicted and embarked 78 migrants,” the Coast Guard said.
It the other incident, the Coast Guard said that it interdicted 73 migrants on an overloaded 50-foot Haitian sail freighter Wednesday, seven miles southwest of Great Inagua, Bahamas.
“The Caribbean and Florida Straits are dangerous and unforgiving for migrants on illegal and ill-advised voyages in overloaded vessels with little or no safety gear needlessly placing lives at risk,” said Cmdr. Willie Carmichael, deputy chief of enforcement for the Coast Guard’s 7th District.
“The Coast Guard and its partner agencies continue to maintain a strong presence along our maritime border and will continue to interdict and rescue those who embark on these illegal voyages in unsafe vessels such as these ones,” he added.
Under the Comprehensive Maritime Agreement between the governments of the United States and the Bahamas, the Coast Guard said all migrants, regardless of nationality, country of origin or age, falling under Bahamian jurisdiction are transferred to the Bahamas, where they are processed in accordance with Bahamian and International Law.
The majority will likely be repatriated to their country of origin, the Coast Guard said.
Meanwhile, officials in the Turks and Caicos Islands said a boat carrying 53 illegal Haitian migrants were intercepted on Tuesday.
They said the 35-foot sloop was stopped during an operation involving several agencies, including the US Coast Guard, the Turks and Caicos Islands Coastal Radar Station and the Royal Police Marine Unit.
The Turks and Caicos authorities said they were warning illegal migrants that they face the full brunt of the law if they are engaged in trafficking in human beings. (CMC)