Coast Guard crews and Royal Bahamian Defence Force (RBDF) rescued more than 400 Haitians illegally migrating in three separate at sea interdictions in the span of 11 days.
Monday, an aircrew aboard a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater located a 40-foot sail freighter riding low west of Ragged Island, Bahamas. Her Majesty's Bahamian Ship Arthur Dion Hanna arrived on scene the following day and safely disembarked 124 Haitian migrants and transported them to Coral Harbour Base for further processing. The vessel was grossly overloaded with 100 males, 16 females and eight children.
Thursday, the RBDF interdicted approximately 180 Haitian migrants aboard another dangerously overloaded sail freighter illegally migrating northwest of Great Exuma Island, Bahamas. There was no Coast Guard involvement in this case.
The crew aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Paul Clark interdicted and safely disembarked 101 Haitian migrants aboard an overloaded sail freighter Aug. 11 before turning them over to the RBDF. There were 71 males, 21 females and nine minors aboard the vessel. Crew members distributed life jackets to the group and moved them onto the cutter, where they received food, water and basic medical care.
"The Coast Guard strongly advises against taking to sea in an attempt to illegally enter the United States or Bahamas," said Cmdr. Timothy Cronin, Coast Guard 7th District deputy chief of enforcement. "These attempts unnecessarily put the lives of migrants and Coast Guard crews at great risk."
All three overloaded freighters did not have the recommended navigational safety equipment onboard including life jackets and Electronic Positioning Indicating Radio Beacons.
"I want to express my thanks and appreciation for the assistance received from the United States Coast Guard in providing critical information which culminated in the apprehension of the migrant vessel," said Commodore Roderick Bowe, commander of the Royal Bahamian Defence Force.
Cronin added, "We will continue to diligently patrol the waters with our interagency partners to rescue and repatriate undocumented migrants who take to the sea. There is a controlled, safe, and legal means to enter the United States and we urge people to follow that process.”
In fiscal year 2014, the Coast Guard 7th District estimates that 4,921 Haitians, 3,216 Cubans and 539 Dominicans have attempted to illegally migrate via the sea. These numbers represent the total amount of at-sea interdictions, landings and disruptions in the Florida Straits, the Caribbean and Atlantic.
The cutter Paul Clark is one of the 58 new Sentinel-class fast response cutters (FRC) replacing the Island-class patrol boats. The FRC is capable of speeds in excess of 28 knots and operating in seas up to 18-feet. The speed, stability and firepower of the FRC deliver tremendous lifesaving, law enforcement and homeland security capabilities in the same package.