The Coast Guard repatriated 86 of 87 to the Dominican Republic Navy between Tuesday and Wednesday, following the interdiction of three illegal migrant voyages in the Mona Passage off the west coast of Puerto Rico.
The 87 interdicted migrants are reported to be Dominican Republic nationals. One of the migrants remains hospitalized in Puerto Rico, after he was medevacked due to an existing medical condition.
The interdictions are the result of ongoing efforts in support of Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Border Interagency Group CBIG.
“The strong collaboration between the Coast Guard and our Caribbean Border Interagency Group partner agencies involved in this case, as well as, with our allies in the Dominican Republic Navy, led to the interdiction of three migrant vessels and ensured the quick and safe return of 86 migrants,” said Capt. Gregory Magee, Commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “This same effort allowed for one of the migrants in need of urgent medical care to be transported to a local hospital in Puerto Rico. We are committed to safeguarding our nation’s southernmost maritime border against existing threats, and call for anyone thinking of taking part in an illegal voyage to not take to the sea, you are placing your life at great risk as well as the life of everyone else taking part in the voyage.”
The first illegal voyage was detected Monday afternoon by the crew of a patrolling Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, approximately 40 nautical miles off Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard Cutters Richard Dixon (WPC-1113) and Heriberto Hernandez (WPC-1114) diverted to the scene. Cutter Richard Dixon arrived on-scene and stopped the 30-foot migrant vessel that was transporting 39 men and six women. The cutter Richard Dixon escorted the migrant vessel back to Dominican Republic territorial waters, where they were rendezvoused with the Dominican Republic Navy vessel Bellatrix, and completed the repatriation of the migrants.
The second illegal voyage was detected Monday evening by the crew of a Customs and Border Protection Marine Enforcement Aircraft, approximately 22 nautical miles off the southwest coast of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez diverted to the scene, while a marine unit from Customs and Border Protection Caribbean Air and Marine also responded to interdict. The CBP marine unit stopped the 35-foot vessel that was transporting 31 men and eight women, while the cutter Heriberto Hernandez arrived on scene shortly thereafter and embarked the migrants. One of the migrants in this case was medevacked to a local hospital in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, while the remaining migrants were transported by the cutter Heriberto Hernandez to Dominican Republic territorial waters, where they rendezvoused and completed the at-sea repatriation of the migrants to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel just off Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
The third illegal voyage was detected Wednesday morning by the crew of a Customs and Border Protection dash-8 maritime patrol aircraft, approximately 12 nautical miles west of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The crew of a responding Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine unit interdicted the 21-foot makeshift vessel that was transporting three men. Shortly thereafter, the cutter Heriberto Hernandez arrived on scene, embarked the migrants and transported them to waters just of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, where the repatriation was completed to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel Wednesday afternoon.
Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants received food, water, shelter and basic medical attention. Throughout the interdiction Coast Guard crewmembers were equipped with Personal Protective Equipment to minimize potential exposure to any possible case of COVID-19. No migrants were reported to have any COVID-19 related symptoms.
Cutters Heriberto Hernandez and Richard Dixon are 154-foot fast response cutters homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.