San Juan, Puerto Rico –
At least 38 people were rescued and 11 bodies were found as the US Coast Guard scoured the vast waters northwest of Puerto Rico on Friday via boats, planes and helicopters in an effort Searching for more survivors after a boat carrying suspected migrants capsized.
The group of people was first spotted Thursday morning by a US Customs and Border Protection helicopter, with authorities warning that it might be too late to rescue anyone else. Rescue efforts are concentrated in an area more than 11 miles (18 km) north of the deserted island of Desecheo, west of Puerto Rico.
“We are always looking for the possibility of finding survivors,” said Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad, adding that the crew had been working through the night.
It is not yet clear how many people were on the boat. Of the 38 survivors, 36 were Haitian and two were from the Dominican Republic, he said. At least eight Haitian nationals were hospitalized, although the nationalities of all those on board were not immediately known.
“Our hopes and prayers are with the survivors and those still missing,” Coast Guard Rear Admiral Brendan McPherson said. “Our highest priority is to save lives, and that’s what my crews will do their best.”
Authorities in recent months have noted a sharp increase in migrants, especially from Haiti and the Dominican Republic, making what they describe as dangerous journeys aboard rickety ships. often capsized or released on uninhabited islands. It is one of the cheapest ways for migrants to escape poverty and violence, especially in Haiti, where rising inflation, kidnapping and brutal gang violence have forced people to take risks and move up. boat looking for a better life elsewhere.
Between October 2021 and March, 571 Haitians and 252 people from the Dominican Republic were detained in the waters around Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, according to US Customs and Border Protection. Ky. The majority of the Haitians, 348 of them, landed on Puerto Rico’s uninhabited Mona Island and were rescued.
In fiscal year 2021, 310 Haitians and 354 Dominicans were arrested, compared with 22 Haitians and 313 Dominicans arrested in fiscal year 2020.
Meanwhile, the US Coast Guard said that in the fiscal year ended September 30, it arrested 1,527 Haitian, 838 Cuban and 742 people from the Dominican Republic in the area, including including Florida and the Caribbean.
In January, the Coast Guard searched for at least 38 people missing off the Florida coast after a suspected people-smuggling boat leaving the Bahamas capsized in a storm. A single survivor has been reported.
More recent incidents include 68 migrants rescued Saturday at Mona Passage, a perilous area between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. A woman believed to be from Haiti has died. Meanwhile, on May 7, Customs and Border Protection arrested 60 Haitian migrants who it said were smuggled through southwestern Puerto Rico. On May 4, 59 other Haitian migrants were detained in northwestern Puerto Rico. In late March, officials said they had arrested more than 120 migrants in three separate maritime smuggling cases.
The increase in Haitians fleeing their country comes as gangs grow stronger and vie for control of more territory amid a political vacuum in the wake of President Jovenel Moise’s assassination on 7/17. 7. Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s administration has pledged to crack down on gangs with the help of the international community because the Haitian National Police are understaffed and under-resourced.
The country has also been plagued by double-digit inflation, severe gas shortages and gang violence that has forced the closure of hundreds of schools and businesses and forced some hospitals and clinics to shut down. temporarily closed. In addition, the administration of US President Joe Biden has deported more than 20,000 Haitians in recent months amid heavy criticism for the deteriorating state of the country.