U.N. envoy sends condolences to Haiti

The head of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Haiti on Dec. 27 sent his condolences to the country’s president and families of the 38 people who died at sea after their boat sank off Cuba’s eastern coast last week.

Mariano Fernández, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), reaffirmed the mission’s commitment to supporting the Haitian authorities in their efforts to improve the living conditions in the French-speaking Caribbean country “so that Haitians do not have to risk their lives in desperate search for a better future abroad.”

According to reports, the remains of the 38 people were discovered on Christmas Eve, when the Cuban coast guard found the half-sunken boat about 100 meters off the town of Point Maisi.

The Cuban civil defense agency said the dead included 21 men and 17 women. About 87 people, including four children, were rescued.

On Christmas Eve, the United States Coast Guard said it had returned almost 150 migrants to Haiti and Cuba after intercepting their boats at sea.

A total of 112 Haitian migrants were returned to Cap-Haitien, Haiti, on Dec. 23, officials said.

A Coast Guard crew on the St. Petersburg, Florida-based Cutter Resolute, conducting a routine patrol in the Caribbean Sea, discovered the Haitian sail freighter west of Great Inagua, Bahamas, on its way to the Florida coast.

The vessel was “grossly overloaded” with 87 men, 19 women and six children, according to Coast Guard Captain Brendan McPherson, of the 7th Coast Guard District chief of enforcement. T

McPherson said the migrants were given life jackets and transferred to the Coast Guard cutter.

The Coast Guard also said it returned eight Cuban migrants on Dec. 21 and 29 Cuban migrants on Dec. 23 to Bahia de Cabañas, Cuba. Officials said the migrants were picked up at sea in two separate incidents.

“All the migrants received food, water and medical care aboard Coast Guard vessels before being repatriated,” the Coast Guard said.