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US Coast Guard transfers 151 Haitian migrants to Bahamas

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A 40-foot Haitian sail freighter sails through the water approximately 35 miles south of Ragged Island, Bahamas Thursday, August 10, 2017. The sail freighter was located by a Coast Guard Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry crew who helped direct the Coast Guard Cutter Seneca crew to the scene, which safely interdicted and embarked 78 migrants from the unsafe vessel. US Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Air Station Miami

MIAMI, USA — The US Coast Guard Cutter Seneca crew transferred 151 Haitian migrants on Friday to the Royal Bahamian Defence Force.

The transfer is a combination of two separate interdiction cases in which Coast Guard aircrews and cutter crews located and rescued these migrants.

A Coast Guard Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew located an overloaded 40-foot Haitian sail freighter Friday approximately 35 miles south of Ragged Island, Bahamas. The Coast Guard Cutter Seneca was diverted to the scene, and safely interdicted and embarked 78 migrants.

The Coast Guard Cutter Bernard C. Webber crew interdicted 73 migrants on an overloaded 50-foot Haitian sail freighter Wednesday 7 miles southwest of Great Inagua, Bahamas with assistance by a Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew deployed to Great Inagua.

“The Caribbean and Florida Straits are dangerous and unforgiving for migrants on illegal and ill-advised voyages in overloaded vessels with little or no safety gear needlessly placing lives at risk,” said Cmdr. Willie Carmichael, deputy chief of enforcement for the Coast Guard’s 7th District. “The Coast Guard and its partner agencies continue to maintain a strong presence along our maritime border and will continue to interdict and rescue those who embark on these illegal voyages in unsafe vessels such as these ones.”

Under the Comprehensive Maritime Agreement between the governments of the United States and The Bahamas, all migrants regardless of nationality, country of origin or age, falling under Bahamian jurisdiction are transferred to the Bahamas where they are processed in accordance with Bahamian and international law. The majority will likely be repatriated to their country of origin.

Once aboard Coast Guard cutters, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and medical attention.

Approximately 1,791 Haitian migrants have attempted to illegally migrate to the US via the maritime environment since October 1 compared to 1,872 Haitian migrants in fiscal year 2016. These numbers represent the total number of at-sea interdictions, landings and disruptions in the Florida Straits, the Caribbean and Atlantic.