SAN JUAN ( Associated Press) – The US Coast Guard said Tuesday it has rescued 34 Haitian migrants stranded by smugglers on an uninhabited island near Puerto Rico, the second such incident in less than a month.
The discovery was made after employees of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources reported seeing bonfires on Isla Monito, which is located in the treacherous waters separating the United States from the Dominican Republic.
The rescue took place on Monday when the water rose to 5 meters (15 feet) and the migrants jumped into the water where a coast guard vessel awaited them. Officials said the rescue operation took about five hours.
The 26 men, seven women and one child were later transferred to US Border Patrol agents in Puerto Rico.
In November, the Coast Guard rescued 12 Haitian migrants who had been on the island of Monito for five days. In late June, another 27 Haitian expatriates were rescued on the same island.
Many Haitians have fled poverty and political instability in their country, sometimes crossing overland to the Dominican Republic and paying smugglers to take them to Puerto Rico, only to be abandoned halfway through. Dozens of migrants have died this year when makeshift boats capsized in turbulent waters.
The Coast Guard says it detained more than 320 migrants from October 1 to November 30, most of them Dominicans. All are handed over to the US Border Patrol and held unless they have applied for asylum or have a police record in the United States.