Boat carrying 356 Haitians lands in Florida, one of largest maritime smuggling events in years, authorities say – The Washington Post

A battered wooden freighter carrying 356 Haitian migrants ran aground in the Florida Keys on Sunday in what authorities described as one of the largest smuggling events in years involving a single boat.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said the overloaded vessel landed near the Ocean Reef Club on North Key Largo, coming to a stop about 200 yards from shore. The boat listed to one side but did not capsize, and 158 of the migrants swam and waded through choppy waters to the shore, the CBP said. The remaining 198 were picked up by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter.
“We are fortunate to report that there were no serious injuries or fatalities associated with this smuggling venture,” Walter N. Slosar, chief of the Border Patrol’s Miami Sector, said in a statement. “The criminal organizations that overload these vessels sacrifice the safety of the migrants for the sake of profits.”
Photos published to social media by the CBP showed Haitians on shore wrapped in blue-and-white-striped towels that appeared to be provided by a resort. Three of the migrants were taken to a hospital with minor injuries and released, according to the CBP.
Hansel Pintos, a spokesman for the Coast Guard’s seventh district, said the rickety vessel appeared to be the kind of small freighter typically used to ferry cargo between Haitian coastal towns and ports.
“Folks who make this kind of voyage in grossly overloaded boats are putting their lives in danger,” Pintos said. “If they get interdicted, the most likely outcome is that they will be repatriated.”
Most of the passengers aboard the jam-packed boat were young men, authorities said. There were some minors aboard but none younger than age 14.
The Haitians who swam ashore were taken to U.S. Border Patrol stations for processing, the CBP said, and would face deportation. Those in Coast Guard custody would be subject to an “interagency process” at the Department of Homeland Security to determine whether they would be repatriated to Haiti, said Pintos.
CBP officials are investigating the incident and conducting interviews to determine whether any suspected smugglers were among the passengers, the agency said. They were not sure how long the boat was at sea nor how it managed to evade Coast Guard interdiction before entering U.S. waters.
Another boat carrying 176 Haitians was stopped by the Coast Guard as it approached the Florida Keys on Jan. 11.
After deportation flights, Haitian border crossings plunged, CBP data show
Desperate conditions in Haiti have fueled an increase in migration since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last July. Thousands of Haitian nationals attempted to enter the United States across the Mexico border in Del Rio, Tex., last summer, but the majority had left their homeland years earlier and were living in South America before heading north.
CBP arrests of Haitians along the border reached a peak of nearly 18,000 in September, then fell sharply after authorities launched a fast-track deportation operation. About 3,800 were detained by the CBP in January, the most recent month for which figures are available.


What's your reaction?

In Love
Not Sure

You may also like

More in:Diaspora

Comments are closed.