More than 200 migrants have been rescued and repatriated by the US Coast Guard after a busy week of illegal migration attempts from Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic.
As of Sunday night, the Coast Guard repatriated 88 Cuban migrants to Bahia de Cabanas, Cuba, 82 Haitian migrants to Cap-Haitien, Haiti, and 41 Dominicans and two Cubans back to the Dominican Republic within the past week. In addition, 17 migrants suspected of various crimes were brought to Miami and Puerto Rico for further investigation.
The 210-foot Coast Guard Cutter Dependable rescued the largest group of migrants, when an overloaded 30-foot sail freighter with 82 Haitian migrants aboard was discovered south of Great Inagua, Bahamas.
Earlier in the week two cruise ships, Norwegian Pearl and Carnival Ecstasy, rescued 65 Cuban migrants from unseaworthy rustic vessels in two separate incidents in the Florida Straits.
"Although there were no reported deaths in any of these cases, all of them could have ended tragically," said Todd Lutes, chief of incident management for the Coast Guard Seventh District. "Not one of the boats had lifesaving or navigation equipment and nearly all of them were experiencing signs of distress and taking on water."
In another dramatic case, a Coast Guard helicopter rescued 12 Cuban migrants stranded on an uninhabited island in the Bahamas.
50 Dominicans and two Cubans were interdicted in the Mona Passage, an 80-mile stretch between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Additionally, a U.S. citizen suspected of smuggling nine mixed nationality migrants from the Bahamas to Miami was brought to investigators in Miami for questioning.
"Make no mistake about it, we will aggressively go after the individuals who knowingly put other people's lives at risk," said Cmdr. Timothy Cronin, deputy chief of enforcement for the Seventh Coast Guard District. "Human smugglers are ruthless, profit seeking criminals who have no regard for human life."
In fiscal year 2014, the Coast Guard has interdicted 682 Cuban migrants, 559 Haitian migrants, and 217 Dominican migrants.