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    Apr 2016

    U.S. Coast Guard interdicts migrant boat near Haiti carrying nearly 300 people

    U.S. Coast Guard interdicts migrant boat near Haiti carrying nearly 300 people

    Syra Ortiz-Blanes, David Goodhue
    Fri, January 27, 2023 at 6:36 PM EST

    Less than a week after the U.S. Coast Guard stopped a Haitian migrant boat packed with close to 400 people near a remote group of islands in the Bahamas, the agency said it stopped another vessel from Haiti carrying nearly 300 people on Thursday.

    This one didn’t get nearly as far. The agency said it had intercepted the “unsafe, overloaded vessel,” about 20 miles off Môle-Saint-Nicolas on Haiti’s northwestern tip.

    The latest interdiction occurs as the Florida Keys continues to experience a surge in migrant landings, particularly from Cuba. The increase began toward the end of the holiday season.

    The boats have come nearly every day to South Florida’s shores as migrants flee deteriorating conditions in Cuba and Haiti.

    However, there are signs the exodus is slowing, giving federal, state and local authorities encouragement that recent combined efforts to stanch dangerous migrant seaborne journeys are working.

    The Coast Guard said that from Jan. 20-27 it had stopped over 1,000 migrants on 18 boats. It had repatriated or transferred 420 people to Cuba, 30 people to Haiti, 424 people to the Bahamas, and 65 people to the Dominican Republic.

    Arrivals in the Florida Keys this week, however, were way down compared to what they had been all month.

    Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay, who was vocal in complaining about how the near-constant landings were stretching his staff of just over 200 deputies thin, said arrivals this week are down to levels less than the average that they were before the latest surge.

    “Hands down, our landings have just dropped,” Ramsay said Friday evening.

    He attributes the decrease to the significant addition of state and federal assets that were assigned to the Keys to help patrol the air and water for approaching migrants.

    Gov. Ron DeSantis activated Florida National Guard helicopter crews to the archipelago this month, and state law-enforcement agencies — including the Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission — have sent additional personnel and equipment.

    Ramsay praised both his Republican allies DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott for getting the extra resources to the Keys, but he also credited the Biden administration, particularly Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who he said personally called him Friday to ask what additional help Monroe County needed.

    “I gotta give credit where credit is due,” Ramsay said. “He put his money where his mouth is in terms of the extra Border Patrol agents and Coast Guard crews.”

    The joint action, Ramsay said, has allowed the Coast Guard to patrol closer to Cuba and erect a “quasi-picket fence” to stop migrants and turn them around before they get too far out to sea.

    Change in federal policy

    The Biden administration’s message to people in Cuba and Haiti that they will no longer be allowed to stay if they arrive in the States also sent a message “that maybe it’s not worthwhile to make the trip,” Ramsay said.

    While most of the boats arriving to South Florida lately have come from Cuba, there has also been a steady flow of migrant vessels from neighboring Haiti. On Jan. 23, American and Bahamian maritime authorities intercepted a boat carrying 396 Haitians near remote Cay Sal Bank. The Bahamas took the group into its custody.

    On Jan. 13, a boat carrying up to 70 Haitians landed in Virginia Key. Some in the group, which included teenagers, swam to land. And at the beginning of the month, a boat carrying over 100 Haitians landed in Key Largo.

    “Taking to the sea may make you ineligible for the new parole programs,” the agency warned in reference to the newly established parole processes for Haitians, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and Cubans. It will allow up to 30,000 people every month from those four countries to work and live in the United States. People can apply from their home countries and must go through background and health checks as well as be able to arrange for their own air travel.

    Federal officials hope the program will curb irregular migration amid an increase of migrants coming to the U.S. from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Venezuela. Mayorkas has also said Cuban and Haitians who come to the United States via the sea will be ineligible for the program.

    Last edited by Beezer; 01-28-2023 at 08:22 AM.


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