Monday, January 22, 2007

U.S. Coast Guard rescues migrants off Costa Rica

Picture property of the U.S Coast GuardThe U.S. Coast Guard rescued a disabled boat that was carrying at least 57 illegal South American immigrants to the United States, Costa Rican officials said Monday.

Heidi Bonilla, Costa Rica's immigration spokeswoman, said the U.S. Coast Guard was patrolling for drug smugglers Saturday when it came upon the boat drifting about 55 miles from Costa Rica's Cano Island, a biological reserve popular with deep-sea divers.

She said the boat, which had suffered mechanical failure, was being towed to shore by the Costa Rican coast guard. Most of the immigrants aboard were from Peru or Ecuador and were in good health, Bonilla said.

Jesus Urena, a spokesman for the Public Security Ministry, said the immigrants would held in a detention center at Puntarenas until authorities determine whether they should be deported.

In October, 128 immigrants — including 71 Chinese and 57 Peruvians — were rescued off Costa Rica's Pacific coast when the motor of their boat failed before they reached the U.S. Their smugglers were believed to have escaped in a smaller boat.

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