The Coast Guard transported 79 Haitian migrants to Bahamian authorities Saturday after intercepting two separate vessels east of Lake Worth Inlet in Palm Beach County last week.
Authorities believe both voyages to be migrant smuggling operations, though they did not say whether they were related to one another.
On Nov. 25 at approximately 10:30 p.m., the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office notified the Coast Guard of a first “suspicious” 30-foot vessel that was taking on water about 8 miles east of Lake Worth Inlet. The next day, at approximately 9 p.m., the Sheriff’s Office reported a second suspicious 30-foot vessel.
The Sheriff’s Office did not say who discovered the vessels.
“All I can say is we probably had notification that they were coming into town,” said Teri Barbera, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office.
The Coast Guard either transports migrants to their country of origin or to the country where their voyage began, said Petty Officer Nicole Groll, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard’s 7th District.
Though the migrants are Haitian, their voyages to South Florida set off from the Bahamas, hence their return to Bahamian officials.
Since Oct. 1, 2022, Coast Guard crews have interdicted 584 Haitian migrants.
On Nov. 19, 217 Haitian nationals were turned over to officials in the Bahamas after they were interdicted at sea near the islands.
Two days later, on Nov. 21, Coast Guard crews rescued nearly 200 Haitian migrants from a packed sail freighter that got stuck on a sandbar near the Florida Keys. All but three were returned to Haiti. Immigration officials determined those three to have “credible fear.”
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