Fleeing chaos, poverty and the prevailing violence, thousands of Haitians undertake a long and dangerous journey in search of better living conditions to survive. Puerto Rico, the favorite destination of Dominicans, is also becoming that of their neighbors in Haiti.
This is confirmed by the spokesman for the United States Coast Guard, Ricardo Castrodad, who specified that since last August there has been an increase in illegal trips by Haitians.
“The populations that transit the Mona Canal the most on these types of trips are mostly Dominicans, but the Haitian population follows closely. Since August of last year these trips have been made with Haitians, since then there has been a marked increase of the Haitian trips to Puerto Rico, many times on these trips they come from both nationalities in a single boat,” added the official in statements to Primera Hora de Puerto Rico.RELATED
In these first 12 days of May alone, the Coast Guard has reported three interceptions of improvised boats with Haitian passengers.
As reported in the EFE news agency, on May 4, United States Border Patrol agents detained 59 Haitian migrants after they disembarked in Rincón, a municipality on the west coast of Puerto Rico.
At that location, authorities found the 30-foot-long abandoned boat with two outboard motors without any markings or registration, and containing food products.
Carrying out a search of the area, they managed to arrest a group of 59: 23 women, 35 men and one minor.
Four days later, on Sunday, May 8, during a Coast Guard operation in which the Dominican Navy also intervened, 69 undocumented migrants were detained, including 25 Dominicans and 44 Haitians. They were heading to Puerto Rico aboard a craft-made vessel that capsized northeast of Cabo Engaño, La Altagracia.
The illegal trip claimed the life of a Haitian woman. Of the 44 Haitians who survived the shipwreck, 18 were men and 26 women.
This Thursday (05/12/2022), four days apart, another vessel was intercepted. The authorities have rescued 38 people alive, 36 Haitians and two Dominicans.
Eleven Haitian women lost their lives on this third trip. In this way, the deceased in less than 15 days rises to 12 and they are precisely of the female gender.
The boat, suspected of illegally transporting migrants from the Dominican Republic, capsized approximately 10 nautical miles north of the Puerto Rican islet of Desecheo. The Coast Guard reported that it continues to search the area for possible survivors or deaths.
In total, there have been 151 Haitians intercepted on illegal trips to Puerto Rico, where only 139 have survived.
The maritime strip known as the Mona Channel, which separates the Dominican Republic from Puerto Rico, is a regular migration route and every week boats are intervened and it is also the scene of shipwrecks like the one on Thursday.
In recent months, the flow of Haitian migrants using this route to try to reach the United States has increased, due to the difficulties of accessing that country by land through Mexico.
Haitian migrants use handmade boats and leave for Puerto Rico from their own country or from the neighboring Dominican Republic. They are vessels not suitable for navigation, Castrodad said.
A Haitian leader residing in Puerto Rico defined the migration of his compatriots to the island as a criminal journey.
Leonard Prophil told the Puerto Rican portal “El Nuevo Día” that around 72 people were on the boat and that it also lasted three days on the high seas before capsizing on the island of Desecheo.
Immigrants who take this dangerous journey on the high seas suffer from hunger and supplies such as water run out, even when the yawl is lost they can last up to seven or eight days at sea. “It’s a very criminal trip,” lamented Prophil.
“The person is risking his life to seek a better life because you cannot live in Haiti. The situation is so difficult. There is no surveillance and they have used Haiti as a bridge for drugs and firearms. That’s why everyone is armed in Haiti. (…) There are 15-year-old pregnant girls, ”she denounced.
What happens to the migrant who arrives in a yola in Puerto Rico?
In addition to the possibility of dying in the attempt, Castrodad indicates that those who survive this trip require immediate medical assistance for having suffered inclement weather, hunger and sunstroke.
He pointed out that illegal travelers are treated in hospitals, after they are stabilized they are purged. Some are deported to their country of origin and repeat offenders are brought to justice.
Dominican journalist and broadcaster.