Coast Guard intercepts small boat packed with Haitian migrants

Vessel deemed unsafe; migrants returned to home country

By Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor

MIAMI - A small boat overloaded with Haitian migrants was stopped this week by the U.S. Coast Guard about 45 miles off the coast of Cap-Haitien, authorities said.

The crew of the Coast Guard vessel Robert Yered spotted the boat Monday and boarded the vessel. A  total of 50 Haitian migrants were on board and the vessel was deemed a navigation hazard by the Coast Guard, officials said.

The migrants were returned to Haiti.

The U.S. Coast Guard said the number of Haitian migrants trying to reach the United States by boat is slightly down compared with this time last year, but stressed the extreme safety risks of these voyages.

"Bottom line is these voyages put lives at unnecessary risk," said Capt. Jason Ryan, Coast Guard 7th District chief of enforcement. "These voyages often involve ill-advised agreements with smugglers on poorly equipped, makeshift vessels that are prone to capsizing, leading to loss of life."

In March, a boat carrying migrants capsized and killed at least 10 people off the coast of the Turks and Caicos Islands. A month earlier, 28 migrants died when their boat sank off the coast of the Bahamas.

Also Monday, a Coast Guard aircraft spotted a boat with 10 migrants and 2 smugglers onboard about 10 miles off the coast of Villa Clara Province, Cuba.

The cutter Raymond Evans intercepted the vessel and returned the 10 Cuban migrants to Cuba. The smugglers were taken into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

U.S. Military Photo

A Coast Guard Cutter Raymond Evans small boat crew approaches a 30-foot go-fast vessel off of Villa Clara Province.

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