USCG Auxiliary working above the Mona Passage

Monday, July 28, 2014

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Puerto Rican based AuxAir unit patrols the Mona passage with the USCGC Richard Etheridge performing humanitarian missions. USCG Auxiliary photo by Doug Armstrong.

The Mona Passage is a narrow strait that separates the islands of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. The strait is notoriously treacherous, with turbulent currents and large sand banks. Migrants are venturing on that route because of beefed-up patrols in the north, less vigilance by Dominican authorities and Puerto Rico’s proximity.

The 80 mi area of sea between the two islands is one of the most difficult passages in the Caribbean. It is fraught with variable tidal currents created by the large islands on either side and by sand banks that extend out for many miles from both coasts.  The USCG Auxiliary Air (AuxAir) members conduct routine patrols assisting the USCG in humanitarian missions in the Mona Passage.

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A Puerto Rican based AuxAir unit located a raft, which may have been used by migrants to cross the Mona Passage. An AuxAir observer photographs a MH-65 helicopter while he vectors the helicopter in for a closer inspection. USCG Auxiliary photo.

Haitian migrants are dying at sea in growing numbers as many of them flee the island in rickety boats and brave a new route that is especially perilous.  After a catastrophic earthquake devastated the Caribbean nation, poverty, disease and limited opportunity are driving an increasing number of Haitians to the sea.

The emergence of a newly popular but dangerous sailing route is raising the risks for Haitians. Rather than following the more common path north toward the Bahamas, many Haitians are now traveling by land to the Dominican Republic, with which they share the island of Hispaniola, then heading by sea across the Mona Passage toward Puerto Rico, an U.S. territory.

The Mona Passage connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, and as such, is an important shipping route between the Atlantic and the Panama Canal.

Adapted from various news sources.

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