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Press Release | Jan. 31, 2024

Coast Guard, Dominican Republic Navy rescue 33 migrants from disabled makeshift vessel in the Mona Passage

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Coast Guard and Dominican Republic air and surface crews rescued 33 migrants from a disabled vessel, approximately 20 nautical miles northeast of Macao, Dominican Republic,

The survivors were taking part in an unlawful irregular migration voyage from the Dominican Republic when their makeshift vessel became disabled and was reported to be taking on water.

Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received multiple calls from 911 Emergency Service operators, who relayed the calls from Puerto Rico reporting the distress. Coast Guard watchstanders directed the launch of a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Borinquen, diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Dependable and notified Dominican Republic authorities that responded with Dominican Republic Navy patrol vessels Capella and Bellatrix and a Dominican Republic Air Force aircraft. Additionally, watchstanders conducted an Enhanced Group Calling to notify commercial vessel traffic of the distress and ongoing response.  The U.S. flagged commercial tugboat Signet Intruder responded to the calling and diverted to the search area.

At approximately 10:23 a.m. Wednesday, the Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter located a grossly overloaded 25-foot makeshift vessel with the people onboard waving their arms for assistance.  The Coast Guard aircrew deployed their rescue swimmer who confirmed the well-being of all the vessel passengers and that they were all wearing life jackets.  Shortly thereafter, a Dominican Republic Navy vessel arrived on-scene and safely embarked the migrants, who were returned to the Dominican Republic.

“Great crew effort on all fronts," said Lt. Benjamin Magnus, Coast Guard MH-60T aircraft commander for the case. “Worked with the Dominican Republic’s Navy and Air-Force to safely locate a disabled vessel with 33 people on board and transport them back to safety.”

“The quick response and effective coordination from all Coast Guard and Dominican Republic Navy units led to the prompt rescue of 33 people found aboard this makeshift vessel,” said Adam D. Johns, Coast Guad Search and Rescue mission coordinator for the case. “We appreciate the callers who reported the distress, their actions prevented a tragic outcome. To anyone thinking of taking part in an unlawful migration voyage, we cannot stress enough the dangers these voyages represent.  Don’t take to the sea, it could save your 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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