IOM has helped to voluntarily repatriate a group of 62 Haitian migrants rescued after a shipwreck off the Cuban coast in early December. The still-traumatized migrants arrived at Port-au-Prince airport on Thursday (15/12) night.
At least 29 fellow migrants drowned in the tragedy when their overloaded boat succumbed in the treacherous waters close to the Cuban coast. They were brought ashore near Banes in Holguin province where Cuban doctors provided medical and psycho-social care.
The voluntary repatriation was conducted under a Tripartite Agreement between IOM, Cuba and Haiti. The Cuban authorities reported that the rescued Haitians were so traumatized that they wanted to get back home as soon as possible.
IOM provided USD 15,000 from a special fund to cover the costs of the migrants’ journey home.
“This tragic accident brings home the terrible plight of Haitian migrants who take to high seas in unseaworthy boats,” said IOM Chief of Mission Luca Dall’Oglio. “Then there is the unbearable loss for the families of the bereaved as well as the trauma of the survivors who relive their nightmare at sea.”
Many of the survivors who arrived in Port-au-Prince were headed back to Cap Haitian from where they are believed to have originally set off on an overcrowded boat on their journey. Many would-be migrants take the enormous risk of attempting the 600-mile crossing to the United States and the dream of a better life.
However, many of the boats slipping away from the Haitian coast with migrants aboard head instead for neighbouring Caribbean islands such as the Bahamas or the Turks and Caicos Islands, some 130 miles away.
They typically leave on 42-foot wooden sail boats equipped with outboard motors and are barely seaworthy. The boats are built to accommodate 40 passengers but routinely carry over 60 if there is sufficient demand.