More than three dozen Haitian migrants drowned in the Caribbean off the eastern coast of Cuba after their boat sank over the weekend, according to various reports.
The Cuban Civil Defense said that the country’s Coast Guard spotted a sinking vessel only 100 meters from Punta de Maisi on the island’s eastern end. Thirty eight Haitians (21 men and 17 women) drowned, but 87 people survived the tragedy. According to Cuban officials, the survivors are being cared for at a camp for migrants in Punta Maisi. The Red Cross and the Cuban Coast Guard reportedly are continuing their search and rescue operations.
Under normal procedures, Cuban immigration officials eventually send illegal Haiti migrants back to their home country.
Earlier on the Friday, the United States Coast Guard intercepted and turned back a boat carrying 112 Haitian migrants just west of Great Inagua, Bahamas. They were repatriated back to Cap Haitien on the north coast of Haiti.
The [U.S.] Coast Guard strongly advises against taking to sea in an attempt to illegally enter the United States, said Capt. Brendan McPherson, 7th Coast Guard District chief of enforcement, in a statement.
Taking to sea in a grossly overloaded vessel with little or no safety gear needlessly places human lives at risk. The Coast Guard will continue to rescue Haitian migrants from their peril at sea and will always do so in a professional manner that preserves the dignity of all people.
Overloaded boats from Haiti seeking to cross the waters toward the United States often sink.
Thousands of Haitians have crossed the waters of the Caribbean to settle in Florida in the U.S. However, in 1981, the governments of the US and Haiti entered into agreement by which illegal Haitian migrants would be intercepted at sea and returned to Haiti.
Haitians, who were hammered by a massive earthquake last January which killed hundreds of thousands of people, are desperate to flee the grinding poverty of their country.