The US Border Patrol and the US Coast Guard apprehended Thursday nearly fifty undocumented Haitian migrants which were abandoned by smugglers in the barren Monito Island.
Monito Island is an uninhabited, inaccessible by sea, barren Island about 5 kilometers northwest of the much larger Mona Island. With its high altitude and without a shoreline makes it inaccessible by sea.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan were initially contacted late Wednesday night by the aircrew of a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft, who spotted the migrants flashing a light and waving their hands for assistance.
Coast Guard watchstanders proceeded to divert the Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser and launched an MH-6OT Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen to further investigate and rescue any persons in distress. A Puerto Rico Police marine unit also responded to assist.
Upon arriving on scene, the crew of the Winslow Griesser located the migrants, 26 men and 22 women, on the side of the cliff and taking shelter inside nearby caves. The Winslow Griesser launched their Over the Horizon IV small boat to recover the migrants.
The crew of the Winslow Griesser transferred custody of the migrants to Ramey Sector Border Patrol agents at the Mayaguez Port.
Four migrants had to be transported to a local hospital for treatment.
The illegal maritime smuggling ventures arriving to Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic are ordinarily transported in rustic, homemade wooden vessels commonly referred to as “yolas.” A typical “yola” is an unsafe vessel, generally underpowered with a single outboard motor, and overloaded with a large number of passengers and without life vests. Every year CBP receives both confirmed and unconfirmed reports of aliens drowning while in transit to United States territory.
Eighty miles separate the Dominican Republic from Puerto Rico. At the approximate mid-point lies the island of Mona, an uninhabited island that is a United States territory. Migrant smugglers in the Dominican Republic strategically navigate to and use Mona Island as a drop off point for migrants who must then be recovered from Mona and transported to Puerto Rico by CBP or USCG air or marine assets.