MIAMI, Jan 26 (Reuters) – The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted 191 Haitian migrants aboard an overloaded sailboat off the Bahamas that was due to be bound for Florida, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, a day after the encounter.
The Haitians were taken aboard two Coast Guard vessels on Tuesday to receive food, water and basic medical care, and will eventually be shipped back to the Bahamas and repatriated to their home country, the Haitian said. Reuters a Coast Guard spokesman, Master Jose Hernandez. .
The cutters were on routine patrols around the Bahamas’ Great Inagua Islands, about 540 miles southeast of Florida, in waters that have become the hub of human smuggling operations between the Caribbean and Florida .
“These extremely overloaded vessels operate without proper safety equipment and are not built for these dangerous voyages,” Lt. David Steele, Coast Guard Liaison Officer for the U.S. Embassy in Haiti, said in a statement. .
The ban came as the Coast Guard searched for 38 people missing from a separate boat which left the Bimini Islands in the Bahamas on Saturday and capsized in rough seas on Sunday. A survivor of that incident was rescued on Tuesday.
The Coast Guard said the nationalities of the vessel from Bimini, which is just 50 miles east of Miami, have yet to be determined.
The maritime smuggling of Haitian migrants has become increasingly common as the Caribbean island nation faces economic and political crises, as well as gang-related kidnappings. The Coast Guard said it has rescued more than 800 Haitians since October, in addition to 3,900 recovered at sea in the previous five years.
Reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Miami; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Sandra Maler and Simon Cameron-Moore