The U.S. Coast Guard repatriated on Wednesday, 24 Cuban immigrants who were trying to arrive illegally to the country in a “suspicious vessel” that was intercepted off the coast of the Bahamas, the institution informed.
The interception took place last Saturday near Elbow Cay, Bahamas, when a Coast Guard plane on patrol sighted a suspicious vessel and notified one of the surveillance boats of its location.
The Cubans were taken aboard the Coast Guard vessel, and the owner of the outboard vessel was taken into custody by the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agency.
This official agency indicated in a statement that this was likely a human trafficking operation.
“The Coast Guard and our partner agencies maintain a strong presence in the Florida Straits and discourage these dangerous and deadly voyages,” Coast Guard Commandant Chad Barber said in the statement.
“The policy is to conduct orderly, safe and legal migration which we support by deterring illegal maritime migration,” he added.
Since October 1, 2020, the Coast Guard has intercepted 697 Cubans at sea, compared to 49 intercepted in the entire fiscal year 2020.
According to figures provided by authorities, in fiscal year 2019, there were 313 immigrants intercepted and in 2018 the number reached 259, while in 2017 and 2016 1,468 and 5,396 Cuban immigrants were intercepted at sea, respectively.
The door of entry of Cubans without legal permits to the USA was open until January 12, 2017, when then-President Barack Obama withdrew their immigration benefits by canceling the “wet foot/dry foot” policy by executive order.
Since then, Cubans who illegally enter the United States lack the temporary residence permit and, in case of requesting political asylum, they will have to apply for it under the same conditions as other immigrants.