Smugglers Leave Haitian Migrants Marooned on Desert Islands Off Puerto Rico – InSight Crime

The most extensive database on organized crime in the Americas
Migrant smugglers are marooning large groups of Haitians and others on small, uninhabited islands between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, raising concerns about the safety of defenseless migrants at the mercy of human smugglers. 
The latest incident came on November 15 when the US Coast Guard rescued 12 Haitian migrants who had been left stranded on Monito Cay, a tiny uninhabited island off the larger Mona Island in Puerto Rico.
This was but one of several such rescues in the Mona Passage, a 130-kilometer strait separating the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, in recent months.
In October, Puerto Rican authorities found a group of over 100 migrants stranded on Mona Island, the largest island in the passage, and alerted US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), according to a news release from the agency. 
The group included at least 64 Haitians, deceived and abandoned on the island with no resources, CBP said.
SEE ALSO: Haiti Migrants Dying Off Bahamas, Puerto Rico in Human Smuggling Disasters
These voyages often turn deadly. In July, five Haitians were found dead in the water near Mona Island, and another 66 Haitians were found abandoned on the island, according to a press release from the US Coast Guard. In May, 11 people drowned when their boat capsized as they moved through the channel, Reuters reported.
Deaths and instances of abandonment may well rise as the number of migrants desperate to leave Haiti increases. Between October 2021 and September 2022, 444 Haitians were taken into custody by the US Coast Guard in the Mona Passage, compared to only 55 in the previous six years combined. An additional 929 Haitians were apprehended in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands by Border Patrol during the same period, an increase from only 22 in FY2020 and 310 in FY2021, according to numbers provided to InSight Crime by CBP.
While the largest groups of migrants have been found on Mona Island, two smaller islands in the passage, Monito and Desecheo, have also seen groups of abandoned Haitian migrants in 2022.  
Haiti’s economic and political crisis has pushed many of the country’s citizens to attempt dangerous migratory journeys, providing human smugglers with ample opportunities to take advantage. 
Abandoning migrants in the passage is a calculated strategy by human smugglers, according to Chief Border Patrol Agent Michael Estrada of the US Border Patrol’s Ramey Sector. Historically, smugglers abandon migrants on smaller outer islands such as Mona, Monito, or Desecheo Islands in an effort to avoid detection and minimize the likelihood of being apprehended and facing any type of legal consequence,” he told InSight Crime. 
SEE ALSO: G9 vs. G-PEP – The Two Gang Alliances Tearing Haiti Apart
These smugglers are not acting alone but as part of larger groups. “We are dealing with transnational criminal organizations [TCOs] who have a presence both in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and whose network expands as far as Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the Continental United States. However, due to the close proximity, our biggest threat comes from the Dominican Republic,” said Estrada.
The risk of crossing the Mona Passage goes beyond the threat of abandonment or deception by smuggling networks. The passage, dubbed “Canal de la Muerte” (“The Death Channel”) by journalist Jorge Ramos, has a reputation for vicious conditions and is especially dangerous to cross in small makeshift boats. Historically, the passage has been traveled by Dominican migrants, but periodic spikes of Haitians have also been seen. In 2013, over 2,200 Haitian migrants were apprehended by the US Coast Guard while making the journey through the passage.
We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.
We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.
We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.
Poorly equipped human smugglers have cost the lives of 17 Haitian migrants after their boat capsized near the Bahamas.
A new rule in the United States seeks to stem the flow of ghost guns, bought in parts online and…
The G9 is a federation of the strongest gangs in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, founded in 2020 by Jimmy Chérizier,…
For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…
The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…
Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…
InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley was interviewed for the podcast The Rosenberg Case: A Tale of Murder, Corruption, and Conspiracy in Guatemala, which explores the potential involvement of then president, Álvaro Colom,…
InSight Crime, a think tank dedicated to the study of organized crime and citizen security in the Americas, is seeking interns and investigators to join its dynamic, multinational team.
Get fresh updates on organized crime from across the region delivered to your inbox.
We go into the field to interview, report and investigate. We then verify, write and edit, providing the tools to generate real impact.
Our work is costly and high risk. Please support our mission investigating organized crime.


What's your reaction?

In Love
Not Sure

You may also like

More in:Diaspora

Comments are closed.