In what it’s calling its largest interdiction of Haitians at sea in more than a year, the U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday repatriated 102 migrants back to Haiti.
The migrants were interdicted Tuesday approximately 22 miles south of Great Inagua, Bahamas, and taken to Cap-Haitien in northern Haiti.
“The Caribbean and Florida Straits are dangerous and unforgiving for migrants on illegal and ill-advised voyages in overloaded vessels,” said Capt. Jason Ryan, chief of response for the Seventh Coast Guard District. “The Coast Guard and its partner agencies continue to maintain a strong presence along our maritime border and will continue to interdict and rescue those who embark on these illegal voyages in unsafe vessels such as this one.”
Since Oct. 1, the Coast Guard has interdicted 1,028 Haitian migrants attempting to illegally migrate to the United States aboard rickety vessels, compared to 1,872 Haitian migrants in fiscal year 2016.
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The large number of Haitians risking their lives at sea comes as Brazil, Chile and the Turks and Caicos have in recent months restricted legal Haitian migration, and the U.S has tightened its border with Mexico. The southwestern U.S. border had become the preferred entry point for thousands of Haitians who had shunned the Florida Straits, instead making a staggering 7,000-mile journey that starts in Brazil and traverses 11 countries in South and Central America.
While Haiti welcomed a new president in February, living conditions continue to be difficult in the country, where the cost of living has been rising and the local currency has depreciated. In recent weeks, government employees have been demanding months of back pay, while factory workers have taken to the streets seeking an increase in their minimum wage from $4.75 a day to $12.67, which a government commission has so far rejected. In June, six textile firms wrote the government warning that if violent protests and loss of production continue, they will be forced to shut down their Haiti operations.