The crew of the US Coast Guard Cutter Valiant repatriated 54 Haitian migrants to Cap Haitian, Haiti on Tuesday, with two suspected smugglers being brought in for further investigation.
While on patrol, a Caribbean Air & Marine Branch aircraft reported a suspicious sailing vessel south of St. John, Virgin Islands, Wednesday.
A boatcrew from Coast Guard Station San Juan, Puerto Rico, arrived on scene and provided life jackets to the suspected migrants aboard the grossly overloaded vessel.
The Coast Guard Cutter Forward arrived on scene and safely embarked 54 Haitian migrants before transferring them to the Coast Guard Cutter Valiant for repatriation.
“This smuggling attempt unnecessarily put lives at great risk, including the lives of young children,” said Cmdr. Timothy Cronin, Coast Guard 7th District deputy chief of enforcement.
“There have been no changes to U.S. immigration laws and the Coast Guard, along with its interagency partners, will seek to prosecute smugglers to the fullest extent of the law and promptly return illegal migrants to their respective county of origin.”
Since October 1, the Coast Guard 7th District estimates that 2,231 Haitians, 2,700 Cubans and 468 Dominicans have attempted to illegally migrate via the sea. These numbers represent the total amount of at-sea interdictions, landings and disruptions in the Florida Straits, the Caribbean and Atlantic.