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Advocates Demand Rescue of Haitian Refugees Stranded on Desecheo Island

HeadlineMar 08, 2022

In Puerto Rico, rights advocates are reporting a group of nine Haitian asylum seekers have been stranded on the island of Desecheo for days without food or water and are in need of urgent medical care. A scuba diving and sailing boat spotted the group over the weekend but was unable to navigate closer to the island, located off the west coast of Puerto Rico, so staff contacted the Coast Guard to rescue the group. Democracy Now! spoke to Catherine Edgerton, an abolition advocate who works with the crew that found the refugees.

Catherine Edgerton: “We saw some people waving a red cloth from the island. And we got closer to see that there were nine people on the beach waiting for assistance. So we called the Coast Guard, and the Coast Guard directed us to not approach, to not offer assistance. … When they didn’t show up, we packed up some provisions, water into bags that I could carry, and I swam them in. There were nine people on the island, one of whom was very ill. All of them were very dehydrated and sunburned and quite desperate for help. They had been there for three days. So I swam back to the boat, and we called the Coast Guard again. They assured us that they were on the way. And yeah, we were horrified to see 24 hours go by with no Coast Guard.”

The Coast Guard has now involved Customs and Border Protection. In a statement, CBP told Democracy Now! agents were expected to retrieve the asylum seekers from Desecheo today. Advocates are demanding the asylum seekers be allowed to stay in the United States without the threat of detention or deportation.

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