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Press Release | Nov. 26, 2023

Coast Guard, CBP units apprehend 12 stowaway migrants during tug and barge transit into San Juan Harbor

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection partners apprehended 12 stowaway migrants Saturday, during the escort of the tugboat Sarah Dann that was towing a barge into San Juan Harbor, Puerto Rico.

“I cannot emphasize enough just how dangerous it is to have stowaways board or jump from a moving barge,” said Capt. Robert M. Pirone, Sector San Juan acting commander.  “The quick response and close collaboration of all responding Coast Guard and partner agency units prevented a tragic outcome and accounted for the safety of all the stowaways in this case.”

Coast Guard watchstanders at Sector San Juan received notification from a Coast Guard Station San Juan boat crew at 8:34 a.m., Saturday, of a possible stowaway sighting aboard the barge that was being towed by the tugboat Sarah Dann.

Coast Guard Sector San Juan’s Boarding Team responded to the report and found nine stowaways aboard the barge, including one who was unresponsive.  The unresponsive stowaway was reported to be breathing and have vital signs.  The boarding team also learned that three other stowaways in the group had jumped into the water during the vessel’s transit just off the entrance of San Juan Harbor. 

Coast Guard watchstanders directed Coast Guard on-scene units to search for the three reported stowaways in the water, while a Puerto Rico Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine unit also responded to assist. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Border Patrol authorities apprehended two of the stowaways who were able to swim to shore, while the remaining stowaway was rescued from the water by a Coast Guard Station San Juan crew aboard a 33-foot Special Purpose Craft - Law Enforcement.

A Station San Juan boat crew aboard a 45-foot Response Boat Medium transported the nine stowaways from the barge to Coast Guard Base San Juan where Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations units received custody, while the unresponsive stowaway was received and transported by Emergency Medical Service personnel to a local hospital.

Migrants who are interdicted at sea or apprehended ashore will not be allowed to stay in the United States or a U.S. territory. Furthermore, anyone who arrives unlawfully may be declared ineligible for legal immigration parole options and be repatriated to their country of origin or returned to the country from where the voyage departed from.

Since Oct. 1, 2023, through Oct. 31, 2023, the Coast Guard has carried out nine unlawful irregular migration voyage interdictions in the Mona Passage and waters near Puerto Rico. Interdicted during this period, are 206 non-U.S. citizens including 201 Dominicans, and five Haitians.

Since Oct. 1, 2022, through Sep. 30, 2023, the Coast Guard has carried out 67 unlawful irregular maritime migration voyage interdictions in the Mona Passage and waters near Puerto Rico. Interdicted during this period, are 2,161 non-U.S. citizens including 1,871 Dominicans, 264 Haitians, 15 Venezuelans, 07 Kazakhs, 01 Albanian, 02 Colombians and 01 unknown nationality.

U.S. residents inquiring about family members potentially interdicted at sea by the Coast Guard, please contact the office of your local federal U.S. representative or Senator. Relatives located outside the United States, please contact family members who are U.S. residents to follow the same process on your behalf. 

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

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