The number of sea migrants attempting to cross from Haiti to Florida has more than tripled from last year, according to the US Coast Guard. Since October 1, 2020, the USCG has rescued more than 1,500 Haitians from small boats, compared to only 418 in fiscal year 2020.
The tally includes two very similar boat bans carried out last week, both involving 50-foot sailing freighters with around 200 passengers each.
Tuesday afternoon, the cutter crew Bernard C. Webber the crew spotted a 50-foot sailing freighter at a position about 20 miles northwest of Cap Du Mole, Haiti. The cutter Diligence was diverted to the location of the sailboat and embarked the 202 migrants. After boarding the occupants safely, the crew destroyed the boat as a danger to navigation.
The second interception began Thursday when an Ocean Sentry search plane from Miami Air Force Base spotted an overloaded sailing freighter 50 feet southeast of Pointe de la Plateforme, Haiti. The cutter Bernard C. Webber was hijacked at the scene, and upon seeing the condition of the craft, its crew distributed life jackets to the 199 people on board. Given the dangerously full condition of the vessel, the Webber the crew brought the passengers on board to bring them back to land, with the help of the cutters Hamilton, Robert Yered and Diligence.
No significant injuries or medical problems were reported, and the four coters delivered all occupants safely to Haitian authorities in Cap-Haitien. The sailing freighter was destroyed as a danger to navigation.
“Migrants attempting to enter the United States by sea are often aboard overloaded ships, unfit for navigation and without safety equipment,” said Lt. David Steele, Embassy Coast Guard Liaison Officer of the United States in Haiti. “Unfortunately, many people lost their lives in these attempts.”
In recent months, desperate circumstances have prompted thousands of Haitians to flee their homelands and attempt to reach the United States. Haiti suffers from multiple overlapping problems, including decades of poverty; increased gang violence; the political upheavals caused by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July; and damage from a severe earthquake in August, which destroyed more than 50,000 homes.
In recent weeks, tens of thousands of Haitian migrants have attempted to cross the southern United States border with Mexico, creating a new political challenge for the Biden administration. About 4,000 were quickly deported to Haiti, as well as another 8,000 returned to Mexico, but thousands more were released in the United States to await asylum hearings.