Vessel Carrying Over 300 Haitian Migrants Runs Aground Near Florida Coast
A boat with 356 Haitian migrants ran aground Sunday (March 6) near Florida prompting an investigation by U.S. authorities into a possible human smuggling operation, Reuters reports.
The overcrowded vessel appeared on the verge of capsizing in the Florida Keys. Of the passengers on board, 158 jumped overboard and attempted to swim toward Key Largo, while the other 198 stayed perilously onboard.
Fortunately, all of the passengers survived. The swimmers were rescued and taken into custody by the U.S. Border Patrol for deportation proceedings. The U.S. Coast Guard detained those who stayed on the vessel. Officials plan to repatriate them to Haiti.
Living conditions have worsened on the impoverished Caribbean island over the past year, caused by natural disasters, political strife, and violence. The list of troubles included a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in August 2021 that killed more than 2,000 people, violence at the hands of local gangs, and upheaval following the assassination in July 2021 of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse.
Attempts to migrate by sea from Haiti to the United States have increased, according to Reuters. The Coast Guard has rescued 1,152 Haitians since October. Over the previous five years, the Coast Guard picked up 3,900 migrants in boat crossings.
Another recent incident shows the danger involved. The Guardian reported that there was only one known survivor of a vessel that capsized in January in the Atlantic Ocean between the Bahamas and Florida. Rescuers recovered one body and 38 passengers were missing at sea.