Operation Sea Signal saved Haitian/Cuban Refugees

Around the time Haitian President Aristide returned to Haiti from exile in the U.S. violent opposition forces forced Haitians to flee the country to sanctuary in the U.S. To deal with the migration, the U.S. formed Operation Sea Signal, using its U.S. Coast Guard and Navy units to rescue migrants bobbing in the ocean and transport them to Guantanamo Bay Naval Station.


Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Poll, a young but already seasoned soldier, worked with the Joint Task Force 160 (JTF), responsible for the welfare of over 50,000 migrants. The resettlement camp operated from August 1994 up until February 1996.

Several camps existed under JTF 160. Cubans (fleeing from Castro) and Haitians each had their own camps. Poll worked in Camp Mike where he immediately felt empathy for the people placed in his care, how desperate their situations were, and how they faced new dangers.

According to Poll, "Fidel Castro had released a lot of his prisoners. There were incidents of various assaults . . . that's why Camp X-Ray was built" Poll said some families from Camp Mike were welcomed into the U.S., but a lot of them were returned to Haiti or Cuba.

Poll's experience at Camp Mike has always stayed with him, the full weight of how urgent the migrants' situation was not fully apparent, until he gained a more mature perspective later in life. He is grateful he was one of those, who was able to serve those in their hour of need.

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Read more: refugee, Operation Sea Signal, Cuban Refugee, Haitian Refugee, immigration

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