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05 November 2002

U.S. Coast Guard Increasing Patrols to Stem Illegal Immigration

(Patrols aim to save lives of migrants from Caribbean nations) (650)
The U.S. Coast Guard has announced an increase in its patrols and
surveillance off the coast of Florida to stem a possible increased
flow of migrants attempting to enter the United States illegally from
Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
In a November 5 news release released from its Miami regional office,
the Coast Guard said the purpose of the patrols is to save lives by
removing migrants from unsafe vessels and deterring dangerous
activity.
The United States actively discourages illegal migration as a matter
of national security and for reasons of maritime safety. Migrant
voyages are inherently dangerous and regularly result in injuries and
deaths during voyages attempted on both homemade vessels and boats
used by migrant smugglers, the Coast Guard said.
It added that those caught smuggling migrants will be held accountable
by the U.S. government for their "dangerous and criminal actions."
(begin text)
Coast Guard District 7 Public Affairs 
Nov. 5, 2002
Contact: Public Affairs 
For Immediate Release
Coast Guard steps up patrols to deter, interdict illegal migrants
In response to a possible increased flow of migrant activity from
Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba toward South Florida, the Coast
Guard is increasing its patrols and surveillance of the Windward Pass,
Old Bahama Channel and the Straits of Florida.
Coast Guard cutters, boats and aircraft are increasing their already
significant presence in these areas for the direct purpose of
interdicting migrants attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. These
patrols save lives by removing migrants from unsafe vessels and
deterring dangerous activity. They simultaneously cover the
overlapping transit routes for smuggling of drugs and other
contraband.
All migrants interdicted at sea remain in Coast Guard custody,
receiving food, water and medical care if necessary, and will normally
be repatriated back to their country of origin according to existing
policies.
In the event of migrant smuggling interdictions, the Coast Guard will
continue to work closely with other U.S. agencies including the U.S.
Attorney's office to investigate and identify those involved in
smuggling and hold them accountable for their dangerous and criminal
actions. Conspiring to bring migrants into the country illegally is a
violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(I)
and carries a maximum penalty of ten years of imprisonment.
The U.S. actively discourages illegal migration as a matter of
national security and for reasons of maritime safety. Migrant voyages
are inherently dangerous and regularly result in injuries and deaths
during voyage attempts on both homemade vessels and boats used by
migrant smugglers.
Since Jan. 2000, at least 157 migrants are believed to have lost their
lives in the Seventh District's area of responsibility. Last May, 13
Haitian migrants lost their lives when their 35-foot sailboat capsized
throwing an estimated 86 migrants into the dark waters off Great
Inagua, Bahamas. The Coast Guard was able to rescue 73 Haitian
migrants. The actual number of deaths is believed to be much higher,
but is unknown due to the large number of unreported voyages that
never make it to their destination.
Coast Guard cutters and aircraft not only patrol our ports and
waterways in the U.S., but also the entire Caribbean Basin and the
common transit routes used by those who try to violate U.S. laws. This
includes an area of 1.8 million square miles. The concern for South
Florida is the approximately 250 miles of coastline that serve as the
targeted destination for migrants.
"While we do the best we can to patrol the approaches to the U.S. we
also need help from the commercial and recreational mariners who sail
these same routes," said Capt. James Stark, chief of operations for
the Seventh Coast Guard District. "It is a vast ocean that we are
responsible for, and we ask anyone who sees any suspicious vessels or
activity to report them to us."
Mariners should use their VHF marine radios or cell phones to notify
the Coast Guard and/or the local authorities. A toll free telephone
number is available to report suspicious vessels or activities,
1-800-424-8802.
(end text)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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