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Press Release | Jan. 12, 2024

Coast Guard repatriates 53 migrants to Dominican Republic, following interdiction of unlawful migration voyage in the Mona Passage 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier’s crew repatriated 53 migrants to Dominican Republic, Friday, following the interdiction of an overloaded makeshift vessel in Mona Passage waters off the western coast of Puerto Rico.   

Cutter Joseph Napier’s crew transferred the migrant group to a Dominican Republic Navy vessel just off Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. 

During a Wednesday night patrol, the aircrew of a Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine multirole enforcement aircraft detected a suspect vessel in Mona Passage waters just off Playa Buye in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Coast Guard watchstanders at Sector San Juan diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier and notified Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA) boat stations in the area that responded to intercept the grossly overloaded vessel. As the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier arrived on-scene, two responding FURA marine units stopped the makeshift vessel. Cutter Joseph Napier’s crew embarked 53 migrants, including 46 men of which 36 claimed to be Dominican Republic nationals and 10 others claimed to be Haitian. Also embarked were seven women, four who claimed to be Dominican Republic nationals and three others who claimed to be Haitian. 

“I'm extremely proud of our crew's professionalism and dedication,” said Lt. Matthew W. Carmine, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier commanding officer. “Their ability to seamlessly integrate with regional partners to safely carry out the interdiction of a vessel attempting a dangerous and unlawful voyage to the United States is a testament to their hard work and training.” 

“Unlawful irregular migration voyages represent a danger to all migrants, especially in a place like the Mona Passage where sea-state conditions are so unpredictable and dangerous,” said Cmdr. Gerard Wenk, Sector San Juan chief of response. “We urge anyone thinking about taking part in one of these voyages that they do not take to the sea, it could save their life.” 

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.  

The Coast Guard, along with its Homeland Security Task Force – Southeast partners, maintains a continual presence with air, land, and sea assets in the Florida Straits, the Windward Passage, the Mona Passage, and the Caribbean Sea. The HSTF-SE combined, multi-layered approach is designed to protect the safety of life at sea while preventing unlawful maritime entry to the United States and its territories.   

Since Oct. 1, 2023, through Jan. 12, 2024, the Coast Guard has carried out 24 unlawful irregular migration voyage interdictions in the Mona Passage and waters near Puerto Rico. Interdicted during this period, are 811 non-U.S. citizens including 745 Dominicans, and 66 Haitians. 

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