U.S. Border Patrol spots 118 migrants fleeing Haiti in a boat off Florida

Border Patrol agents intercepted more than 100 Haitian migrants off Key West, Florida, on Wednesday as they tried to enter the U.S., Coast Guard officials said.

The 118 migrants were spotted on a boat in the Florida waters around 4 a.m. and were given medical examinations, interviewed and processed, Border Patrol said.

“I can confirm there was a recent migrant landing in the vicinity of the Key West Nature Preserve,” Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicholas Strasburg said Wednesday.

The migrants were intercepted as a humanitarian crisis grips Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, where violent gangs have taken over the streets, forcing residents to starve and flee as questions remain about whether it can govern itself.

In March, Haiti’s unpopular prime minister, Ariel Henry, agreed to resign after he failed to hold elections on multiple occasions, which he attributed to logistical problems or violent protests aimed at him. Henry had also announced that the next election would be postponed until next year.

Tensions rose further when the idea of a transitional government that would not be brokered by Haitians and other Caribbean countries but by outsiders emerged, humanitarian workers and residents have said.

Haiti’s transition council eventually took hold, cycling through multiple interim prime ministers. Garry Conille currently fills that role.

However, Haiti is still marred by dangerous gangs and violence as the transition council searches for a permanent leader, a Cabinet, a provisional electoral council and an ensuing vote.

“The political unrest and rampant violence in Haiti have created the conditions for another mass migration surge that is directly impacting South Florida,” Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., said in a statement Wednesday. “The security of our community is at risk of another mass migration event from Haiti due to the rampant gang violence and the mass release of thousands of violent criminals from the country’s jails.”

In March, Gov. Ron DeSantis assigned more than 250 additional law enforcement officers and soldiers to patrol the waters and prevent a wave of Haitian migrants.

On Wednesday, an image from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office showed dozens of migrants sitting down on the side of a road. Their medical conditions weren’t immediately known, NBC South Florida reported.

The migrants were medically cleared and transferred to Border Patrol stations, where they will be interviewed and processed, said Samuel Briggs II, the Border Patrol’s acting chief patrol agent in Miami.

The Florida Immigrant Coalition called on state and federal officials Wednesday to provide humane treatment and support to the migrants.

This week, “Haitian migrants, including children, endured a perilous seven day journey at sea, arriving off Key West in a sailboat, seeking safety and security, and highlighting the growing violence and humanitarian crisis in Haiti,” the coalition said in a statement. 

The group said that Haitians are fleeing the country because of dangerous living conditions and that gang violence has led to more crime against women and girls, worsened food insecurity and increased health concerns.

Source link