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Press Release | May 16, 2023

Coast Guard returns 33 migrants to the Dominican Republic, following vessel interdiction in the Mona Passage

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard returned 33 migrants to the Dominican Republic, Saturday, following the interdiction of a migrant vessel in the Mona Passage near Puerto Rico.

The interdiction is the result of ongoing local and federal multi-agency efforts in support of the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG).

Three Dominican men interdicted in this voyage are facing federal prosecution at the U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico on charges of attempted illegal re-entry into the United States under 8 U.S.C. 1326(b).

The interdiction occurred Friday night when a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrew detected a suspect vessel northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Coast Guard watch standers in Sector San Juan diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser (WPC-1116) to respond. Once on scene, the cutter crew safely embarked 36 persons from a grossly overloaded makeshift vessel. Among the interdicted migrants were 30 men and five women, and a male minor, who claimed to be Dominican Republic nationals. The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser transferred the migrants to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel on Saturday, while the minor and his brother were transferred to Children and Adolescents National Council (CONANI) representatives in the Dominican Republic.

The three migrants facing federal prosecution were transferred to Ramey Sector U.S. Border Patrol agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

“Anyone thinking of taking part in unlawful migration we urge to seek lawful migration pathways and not take to the sea; these voyages are highly dangerous,” said Lt. Cmdr. Edward Kunigonis, Sector San Juan chief of enforcement. “If you embark on this journey, you also risk criminal prosecution, repatriation to your country of origin, and the possibility of being disqualified from legal entry to the United States in the future.”

Since Oct. 1, 2022, through April 30, 2023, the Coast Guard has carried out 31 illegal voyage interdictions in the Mona Passage and waters near Puerto Rico.  Interdicted during this period, are 992 non-U.S. citizens including 758 Dominicans, 211 Haitians, 13 Venezuelans, seven Kazakhs, one Albanian and one other unknown nationality.

Cutter Winslow Griesser is 154-foot fast response cutter homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Family members in the United States inquiring about possible family members interdicted at sea, please contact your local U.S. representative. Relatives located outside the United States please contact your local U.S. Embassy.

CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action, in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.

“Make a difference on land, sea or in the air with the U.S. Coast Guard. Visit to find out how to be a part of the team.”

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