Nine Haitian babies, including a set of twins, reportedly died in a span of a week and were dumped in the sea as a group of migrants attempted to reach Puerto Rico last month.
Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Día reported Tuesday that the 51 adult migrants and nine infants set off from the southeastern Haitian city of Jeremie on February 21.
They spent seven harrowing days at sea on a 30ft wooden dinghy raft packed with 60 migrants, where fever ran rampant and food supplies ran out.
Conditions were so dire that the babies began to fall ill, Haitian community Leonard Prophil, who spoke to the surviving migrants, told Puerto Rican local news.
One by one, the children died and the boat’s captain forced their mothers to throw the bodies of their children overboard, he claimed. The babies ranged from about three months to eight months of age.
‘All the children died. They started throwing all the babies into the sea,’ Prophil told El Nuevo Día. ‘The captain ordered it. The mother of the twins told me that the sharks and fish began to catch the children, to destroy them in front of them.’
The vessel eventually made it to the shores of Cabo Rojo, but capsized as migrants tried to get to shore, causing multiple injuries.
U.S. Border Patrol agents took the survivors individuals into custody.
Most of the mothers remain hospitalized in several area hospitals.
U.S. Border Patrol agents with the Ramsey Sector assist Haitian migrants on February 28
Haitian migrants are loaded into a U.S. Border Patrol helicopter in Puerto Rico after they were intercepted on February 28
Hilaire Duverson was one of the migrants in the crammed 30-foot dinghy that was powered by two motor engines.
The 21-year-old mechanical student was among three people, including his sister Laurie, who suffered injuries when the raft overturned as the migrants were frantically trying to get off the boat.
Duverson was granted a permit to remain in the United States while his immigration status is sorted out. On Tuesday, he was on his way to Virginia to start a new life.
‘It would not have been my will to leave Haiti,’ he said, ‘But there was nothing else I could do.’
Jeffrey Quiñonez, spokesperson for U.S. Border Patrol’s Ramsey Sector, told DailyMail.com that the agency could not confirm Prophil’s version of the incident because none of the migrants reported the deaths when they were encountered by the border patrol officers.
‘Of the interviews that were made to all the undocumented immigrants on that trip, there is no information that would give the agents the indication that this incident happened in the raft, so we cannot corroborate the information that this person provided to the reporter,’ Quiñonez said in a phone interview.
Haitian migrants are escorted after making it on a wooden raft Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, on February 28. CBP data shows that at least 562 Haitian migrants have been intercepted in Puerto Rican waters by border agents in the first four months of fiscal year 2022, which began October 2021
Jeffrey Quiñonez, spokesperson for U.S. Border Patrol’s Ramsey Sector, told DailyMail.com on Wednesday that the agency could not confirm Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Día’s report that nine Haitian migrant babies died and were dumped off a raft during a seven-day voyage before making to the island’s western city of Cabo Rojo on February 28
‘We are not aware of evidence in the evaluations that none of them required medical attention with respect to the trauma of losing a child,’ Quiñonez added. ‘None of those people made a statement against the captain … we do not know who among them is the captain.’
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it indicted 38 individuals – 18 Haitians men, one Dominican man and 18 women.
According to CBP data, at least 562 Haitian migrants have been intercepted in Puerto Rican waters by border agents in the first four months of fiscal year 2022, which began in October 2021. In comparison, 356 individuals from Haiti were stopped in fiscal year 2021 and 607 in 2020.
The recent spike can be attributed to poverty and instability in Haiti’s central government following the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group