At least five Haitian migrants drowned, and more than 60 others were rescued near Mona Island toward the west of Puerto Rico after a suspected smuggling boat dropped the group off on Thursday, according to the Associated Press. Forty-one men, 25 women and two children survived, with none having any serious medical issues, officials said.
Authorities searched the area near the uninhabited island for several hours after receiving a call from Puerto Rico park rangers who first spotted the migrants at around 8:36 a.m.
Based on interviews with survivors, officials verified that no additional people were missing. Jeffrey Quiñones, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman, confirmed that all migrants were Haitian.
“Smugglers are there to make a profit, and they are not concerned about your well-being,” U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad said. “They were left at the mercy of their ability to reach shore.”
This incident is one of many that have occurred over the past year, as many Haitians are fleeing their home country on boats for a dangerous voyage to the United States.
On May, 11 Haitian women drowned and 38 others were rescued after their boat capsized near Puerto Rico. Additionally, a criminal investigation is underway after 17 Haitian migrants were found dead and 25 others were saved in the Bahamas after their boat sank on Sunday during a “suspected human smuggling operation,” according to CNN.
According to a recent United Nations news report, between July 8 and 17, more than 470 people were killed, injured or reported missing amid gang fights in the impoverished, densely populated commune of Cite Soleil in Haiti.
Sexual violence against women and girls and boys being recruited by gangs have also been reported. The U.N. reported about 3,000 people have fled their homes, including hundreds of unaccompanied children, while more than 140 houses have been destroyed. U.N. humanitarian agencies have started delivering aid directly to people in Haiti amid the worsening crisis.
Customs and Border Protection in Puerto Rico has detained 843 Haitian migrants since October, according to government data from last month. Additionally, according to news releases dating back to January, the Bahamas Department of Immigration has intercepted at least 830 Haitian migrants since the beginning of the year.
“This is happening every day,” Castrodad told the Associated Press in regard to the boat incident on Thursday. “Everyone runs the same risk and same danger.”