KEY LARGO, Fla. (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard removed 176 Haitians from an overloaded and unseaworthy wooden sailboat as it approached the Florida Keys, officials said.
The rescue effort unfolded on Monday after a Customs and Border Protection air and sea operations flight crew spotted the 60ft vessel about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of ‘Anguilla Cay, Bahamas, the Coast Guard said in a news release.
The crew of the Cutter Paul Clark provided personal flotation devices to those on the boat, who had no basic lifesaving equipment or navigation lights, officials said. A team from the Coast Guard station in Islamorada then worked with federal, state and local law enforcement officers to arrest the people. Ten were taken to hospital with symptoms of dehydration.
“It is extremely dangerous to navigate the Florida Straits on an unseaworthy vessel, especially off the Florida Keys where the water is very dangerous with shoals and reefs. “said Chief Warrant Officer James Kinney. “Thanks to the rapid coordination between so many different agencies, no lives were lost during this ban.”
The group of Haitians will be processed for deportation and transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, CPB spokesman Alan Regalado said.
The Coast Guard systematically returns persons prohibited at sea to their country of origin. Coast Guard crews have already rescued 557 Haitians three months into the current exercise. This is a sharp increase from last year, when 1,527 Haitians had been rescued by the end of the year. The agency said 418 Haitian migrants were rescued in 2020, 932 in 2019, 609 in 2018 and 419 in 2017.