396 Haitian migrants are detained on a 50-foot boat near the Bahamas

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The US Coast Guard has detained a boatload of 396 Haitian migrants near the Bahamas in one of the largest human-smuggling incidents in the region, Bahamian officials said.

The migrants were detained near the vast island of Cay Sal, located between Florida and Cuba, the Bahamas immigration office said in a statement Sunday.

They said the migrants would be processed on the Bahamian island of Inagua and then repatriated.

Nicole Groll, a spokesman for the US Coast Guard, told the Associated Press on Monday that the interception occurred on Saturday afternoon and involved a 50-foot boat.

“He was heavily overloaded and very unsafe,” she said.

No further details were forthcoming.

Thousands of Haitians are fleeing a surge of gang violence and deepening political instability in a country that currently lacks democratically elected institutions.

Many travel to the Bahamas and other nearby islands in the hope of eventually making it to Florida. Travel is often deadly, with migrants crowding makeshift boats that have capsized in recent months.

The exodus comes after the administration of US President Joe Biden recently announced that it would begin returning Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans on the Texas border who were arriving illegally. The administration is currently offering humanitarian parole to 30,000 people a month from these countries if they find a financial sponsor, apply online and pay for airfare.

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