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January 26, 2023
Five migrants were found dead and 66 were rescued in waters close to Mona Island in Puerto Rico. U.S. officials have said that the deaths are linked to a human trafficking incident where the migrants were forced to travel in a makeshift wooden boat.
“The smugglers basically forced the migrants to disembark, it appears that five of the migrants drowned in the process,” Jeffrey Quinones, a Customers and Border Protection (CBP) Officer, told Reuters.
U.S. Coastguard (USCG) officials received reports that the boat capsized, and the deaths occurred when migrants were forced off the boat and told to swim to shore. These reports have not been fully confirmed at this stage.
CBP officials also informed The Miami Herald that the migrants are likely from Haiti. “Our priority is to look for and rescue any possible survivor,” Coastguard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad told The Associated Press. “How many there are or are left in the water, I can’t tell you. They were left at the mercy of their ability to reach shore.”
According to CBP figures 843 Haitians and 353 Dominicans have been detained since October. The Coastguard confirmed that they have intercepted 1,414 Dominicans and 404 Haitians at sea between October 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.
The Coastguard also confirmed that smugglers regularly ditch migrants on Isla De Mona, assuming that they’ll be found by either the Coastguard or Park Rangers. “Smugglers are there to make a profit, and they are not concerned about your well-being,” Castrodad said.
Castrodad cautioned that the most dangerous part of the journey is at the end as the boat is approaching the shore. Castrodad attributed this to unpredictable sea conditions and human desperation.
“The immigrant does not realize the danger they are in. They tell them to get out of there and to the shore, but they do not know the current, the depth. In the last mile we have had many cases where there has been loss of life,” Castrodad added.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: INDEPENDENT