Local March 3, 2014 | 5:11 pm

U.S. SOUTHCOM lauds Dominican Republic for halting Haitians

WASHINGTON.- The head of the U.S. Southern Command on Monday lauded Dominican Republic’s collaboration to halt illegal emigration of Haitians to his country and acknowledged Santo Domingo’s efforts to find a solution to the plight of the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants in its territory.

General John F. Kelly said the increase in trafficking of Haitians toward U.S. territory through the Mona Passage is alarming, which hasn’t been seen for many years.

"Fortunately the Dominican Republic is an important partner in the containment of migration flows, and they work with great determination to find a solution to the issue of the approximately 200,000 Haitians residing there," Kelly said, noting that an increasing number of Haitians try to reach Puerto Rico by boat, almost always from the Dominican Republic, and "will pose challenges to the United States and Caribbean partners."

"More illegal immigration will add more burden to the U.S. Coast Guard and Dominican resources, already with a demand that exceeds its capacity," the head of the U.S. Southern command told U.S. lawmakers.

In recent months the Dominican Navy has halted groups of Haitians trying to reach U.S. territory in makeshift boats known as yolas, which according to Kelly, " more than 2,000 Haitians have been discovered trying to use this narrow (Mona) passage until February of this year, as a vector for migration, compared to less than 200 in the past eight years combined."

"The human smuggling produces a high number of victims; rough seas are endangering the lives of immigrants and rescue personnel, and it has resulted in the death of more than 50 Haitians to date," the official said in statements before the House Armed Services Committee, according to a statement released by Dominican Republic’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

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