Dangerous immigration route to Puerto Rico

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This week, the US Coast Guard returned 54 Dominicans and 4 Haitians who were trying to enter US territory illegally through the Mona Channel, the stretch of sea that separates the Dominican Republic from the islands of Puerto Rico, which is part of the United States. . On Sunday, he intercepted and deported 11 Dominican men in the same area, where last weekend another 56 migrants were found and repatriated trying to enter US territory on a damaged boat.

The Mona Channel is a 110-kilometre-long strait that divides the island of Hispaniola—occupied by Haiti and the Dominican Republic respectively on the west and east—from Puerto Rico, and connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Caribbean Sea. It’s part of an immigration route that we hear very little about, especially when compared to those that go through Mexico, but it’s especially dangerous: Dozens of people die there every year trying to get to the United States illegally.

According to Gregory Magee, a US Coast Guard captain stationed in Puerto Rico, the stretch of sea in the Mona Channel is very dangerous precisely because it is where the Atlantic and Caribbean winds and currents meet. Ships are more difficult than the boats that migrants travel on. About twenty kilometers west of Puerto Rico, in particular, there is a small island called “Dicio Island”, the sea of ​​which is one of the most difficult points to cross due to very strong currents and high waves.

Near Dexio Island, on May 12 the Coast Guard rescued 38 migrants trying to reach the United States on a capsized boat, and recovered 11 bodies, all of them women from Haiti.

He said in an interview with BBC Mondo Irisbel Herrera, a Dominican woman who in 2001 managed to reach Puerto Rico through a long and very complicated journey in a small boat. This is where everyone starts to panic. Herrera commented, “Most trips end in Deshio.

In an attempt to reach the United States on this path, it is not only the people of Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, which in recent decades has been subjected to a series of serious natural disasters, epidemics and political crises. There are also immigrants from the Dominican Republic and people who come from further afield, for example from Cuba, Venezuela or Ecuador, all hoping to improve their living conditions.

Magee noted that the migrants’ journeys across the canal are complicated by the fact that the people driving the boats have very little knowledge of the sea, no radar or cell phones, and make the migrants travel without life jackets: “Human trafficking, they are more concerned about not being detected by the authorities more. They are concerned about taking safe routes.

According to data provided by the International Organization for Migration, so far this year at least 71 migrants have died or are reported missing in the offshore section of the canal, six more than the deaths recorded in the whole of 2021. The actual number, however, could be much higher, because the number of migrants trying to cross the strait increased during the pandemic.

From October 1 last year to May 31, the US Coast Guard said it arrested a total of 1,706 foreign nationals trying to enter the country illegally via the Mona Channel, including 1,235 Dominicas, 370 Haitians and 52 Venezuelans. In 2020, 1,122 immigrants managed to reach Puerto Rico: in 2019, 1,041 arrived. The increase in boats and migrants seen in recent months has been “significant,” he said. Miami Herald Carlos Antonitti, US Navy Operator: “We see a boat almost every day.”

– Read also: It will be summer for many immigrants

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