SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard Cutter Reliance repatriated 29 Haitians to Cap-Haitien, Haiti Tuesday, following the interdiction of an illegal voyage in the Mona Passage near Puerto Rico.
The interdiction is the result of ongoing local and federal multi-agency efforts in support of the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG).
“The persons in this voyage are fortunate to have been safely removed from this grossly overloaded vessel,” said Lt. Evan Wilcox, Sector San Juan enforcement. “This makeshift vessel could have easily capsized due to the dangerous sea states in the Mona Passage, especially during this time of the year. To anyone considering taking part in a similar voyage, it is just not worth it. You are not just putting your life and the life of everyone else in the voyage at risk, but if interdicted, you also risk prosecution and being returned to your country of origin.”
During a routine patrol January 4, 2021, the aircrew of a Customs and Border Protection Marine Enforcement Aircraft detected an illegal voyage, approximately 27 nautical miles northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Following the sighting, the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon interdicted a 25-foot makeshift boat and safely embarked all 30 people who were onboard. One man in the group claimed to be Ecuadorian, while the remaining 21 men and eight women are Haitians.
US Border Patrol authorities in Puerto Rico received custody of the Ecuadorian man, who is undergoing immigration removal proceedings.
Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, persons interdicted receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention. Throughout the interdiction, Coast Guard crewmembers were equipped with personal protective equipment to minimize potential exposure to any possible case of COVID-19.
Cutter Richard Dixon is a 154-foot fast response cutter homeported in Puerto Rico, while the cutter Reliance is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Pensacola, Florida.