An overloaded Haitian sloops interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter VALIANT in the Windward Passage on Thurday.
Nassau, The Bahamas – A 210-foot U.S. Coast Guard ship assigned to patrol the Windward Passage and southern Bahamas region intercepted a 30-foot Haitian sailing sloop 25 miles southeast of Acklins Island on Thursday, 7 February 2008. Although only 15 Haitian nationals were initially visible on the weather decks of the sloop when sighted by Coast Guard aircraft patrolling in the region, the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed there were actually 73 Haitian nationals onboard. Each of the 73 migrants were safely transferred to the Coast Guard ship and will be directly repatriated back in Haiti within the next few days.
U.S. Coast Guard ships and aircraft have been extremely busy in the Windward Passage within the last three weeks assisting in the protection of the shores of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Since 18 January 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard interdicted four overloaded sailing sloops from departure points in Haiti attempting to illegally migrate to the Bahamas and the United States. Other recent Haitian sloop intercepts made by the U.S. Coast Guard in the Windward Passage include:
-On Saturday, 02 February 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted a 40-foot Haitian sloop 30 miles southwest of Great Inagua with 131 Haitian nationals onboard. All 131 illegal migrants were transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard ship and repatriated directly back to Port Au Prince on Tuesday, 05 February 2008.
-On Monday, 21 Jan 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted a 40-foot Haitian sloop just south of Santo Domingo Key with 163 Haitian nationals onboard. All 163 migrants were safely transferred to the Coast Guard cutter and the empty sloop was then sunk at sea as a hazard to maritime navigation. All migrants in this case were repatriated to Port-au-Prince by the cutter.
-On Friday, 18 Jan 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted a northbound, 40-foot Haitian sloop 11 miles southeast of Great Inagua with 80 Haitian nationals onboard. All 80 migrants were safely transferred to the Coast Guard ship and repatriated back to Port-au-Prince within a few days by the U.S. Coast Guard.
In total since mid-January, the U.S. Coast Guard has intercepted a total of 447 illegal Haitian migrants who were directly repatriated back to Haiti. Such direct repatriations by the U.S Coast Guard — in lieu of transfer and detention in The Bahamas — have saved the Government of the Bahamas an estimated $97,000 in repatriation costs.
To supplement the maritime efforts of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the U.S. Coast Guard maintains at least one multi-mission ship in the Windward Passage and Southern Bahamas region year round. As part of the U.S. and Bahamas Comprehensive Maritime Agreement, U.S. Coast Guard ships patrol with a trained member of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force who assists in all maritime law enforcement matters in Bahamian territorial waters. U.S. Coast Guard aircraft also assist in these efforts through daily flights covering vast portions of the Bahamian maritime region.