More than 300 Haitians were discovered on a dilapidated wooden sailboat that was grounded near Key Largo on Saturday, U.S. Border Patrol officials said.
When 113 of the people on board jumped ship, U.S. Coast Guard and Border Patrol crews made rescues and took the migrants into custody, officials said.
They were screened for medical issues, and two had to be treated for dehydration, said the Border Patrol’s Walter N. Slosar, chief of the agency’s Miami sector.
An estimated 220 other Haitians remained on the vessel and were taken into custody en masse, he said.
Their reason for travel was unknown, however, Haitians have been migrating to the United States in the last few years to escape political instability, the aftermath of natural disasters and poverty.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, data show nearly 50,000 Haitian migrants were encountered at U.S. boundaries in 2021, and nearly 40,000 in 2022 through the end of June. The United States has expelled or deported thousands of Haitians, though that number fell in June as the Biden administration allowed more coming through legal ports of entry to seek asylum.
It was at least the second time since March that a vessel with 300 or so Haitians has landed in the Florida Keys. A March 6 landing was described by CBP as a “smuggling event.”
Slosar said in a video Saturday said officials were working to identify “the smugglers who crammed these people onto that vessel.” He said they were also working to transfer the people on board the sailboat into the “the immigration process.”
“We are working to keep then safe, clean, fed and healthy and identify exactly who they are and what they may or may not have brought with them to the country,” he said.
Many migrants from Cuba and Haiti have attempted to cross the Straits of Florida in dilapidated vessels and even on flotation devices, prompting lifesaving rescues from the Coast Guard.
On Saturday the Coast Guard said it was still searching for five missing Cubans believed to have been on a boat that capsized Friday near Sugarloaf Key. The bodies of two were pulled from the water, and eight survivors were rescued, the agency said.
“These ventures are dangerous and not recommended,” John Priddy, director of southeast air and marine operations for CBP, tweeted.