Coast Guard intercepts 191 Haitians on overloaded sailboat

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The US Coast Guard on Tuesday intercepted a sailboat near the Bahamas that would be bound for Florida with 191 Haitians on board.

The Haitians aboard the overloaded ship were taken aboard two Coast Guard vessels, given food and water, and were sent back to the Bahamas for possible repatriation, Reuters reported.

The sailing freighter was intercepted about 40 miles southwest of Inagua, Bahamas, more than 500 miles from Florida, according to Coast Guard News.

The number of Haitians attempting the sea voyage to Florida has increased in recent years as political and economic conditions in Haiti have deteriorated.

U.S. officials have intercepted more than 800 Haitians attempting the trip since October, setting fiscal year 2022 on pace to surpass the 1,527 Haitians rescued by the Coast Guard in fiscal year 2021.

The increase in sea crossings also comes as the Biden administration has adopted a policy of immediate repatriation of all Haitians apprehended crossing overland at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Since September, the administration has returned 151 flights of Haitians captured at the border to the beleaguered Caribbean nation, deporting more than 15,000 Haitians without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum.

Prior to the start of the deportation policy, the Biden administration designated Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), granting approximately 150,000 Haitians present in the United States before July 29 temporary permits to live and work in the country.

The growing number of Haitians attempting the sea voyage reflects deteriorating conditions in Haiti, but also fewer open doors for Haitians in mainland Latin America.

Many Haitians arriving at the US-Mexico border had long settled in Brazil and Chile, but economic and political changes in those countries forced these refugees to leave, and few, if any, chose to return to Haiti.

Mexico has stepped up its immigration control, while also becoming a destination country, especially as summary deportations of Haitian newcomers to the United States continue.

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