SAN JUAN (HPD) — U.S. federal authorities said Tuesday they were trying to rescue more than 100 migrants stranded on an uninhabited island near Puerto Rico after a human smuggling operation.
It was not immediately possible to determine the nationality of the migrants waiting for help on Mona Island, although officials believe they are mostly Haitian, said Jeffrey Quiñones, a spokesman for the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). by its initials in English) in Puerto Rico.
“We haven’t seen a group of this size stranded on a yola since the 1990s,” Quiñones told The Associated Press, referring to the flimsy rafts used by smugglers.
It was unclear if anyone in the group drowned before authorities were alerted to the situation. Quiñones said authorities are still interviewing the migrants.
In the group there are 60 women, 38 men and five children between the ages of 5 and 13, according to Anaís Rodríguez, secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources. She stressed that three of the women are pregnant and that the group in general is in good health.
Mona Island is located in the treacherous waters between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and has long been a staging post for smugglers who promise to transport Haitian and Dominican migrants to the US mainland aboard rickety boats. Dozens of them have died in recent months fleeing poverty and violence in their countries.
In late July, authorities rescued 68 Haitian migrants who had been abandoned in the waters surrounding Mona Island. At least five others drowned.
From October 2021 through March, 571 Haitians and 252 people from the Dominican Republic were detained in waters near Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, according to CBP. Of the Haitians, 348 landed on the uninhabited island of Mona in Puerto Rico and were later rescued.