The U.S. Coast Guard repatriated 19 Cuban migrants who were detained in four maritime interceptions near the Florida Keys, authorities reported on Thursday.
In the first, according to an official statement, on August 7, a person notified watchstanders in the Key West Coast Guard sector of a sighting of a “suspicious” vessel with two people on board, approximately 15 miles (24 km) east of Key Largo.
Based on the report, a Coast Guard vessel intercepted the two people, who turned out to be Cuban migrants.
On the same day, according to the 7th District Coast Guard statement, another “suspicious” vessel with seven people was spotted from the air.
This scene occurred about 48 miles (77 km) south of Marathon Key, where Customs and Border Protection (CBP) air and marine operations officers were dispatched.
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There, they intercepted the vessel and transferred the seven Cuban migrants to a vessel for repatriation to the island.
Also, on August 9 and in two other interceptions at sea, authorities stopped two additional vessels with Cuban migrants, the first 78 miles (125 km) south of Key West, where they found six Cuban migrants.
The last one that day occurred at the same distance from Key West, but to the southeast, where they detained five Cubans attempting to reach U.S. territory.
All but one of the detainees were taken to the military vessel “Charles David Jr.” and repatriated on Wednesday, in compliance with the 2017 repeal of the Dry Feet/Wet Feet policy by the Obama administration, which no longer allows Cuban migrants to stay in the United States upon arrival by sea.
The Coast Guard statement reports that “it was determined” that one of the Cuban migrants “warranted further screening and is being transferred to the appropriate authorities.”
“Navigating the Florida Straits is difficult and unpredictable in rustic vessels,” said Officer Mario Gil, Coast Guard liaison to the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
“Navigating in unsafe vessels is dangerous and can result in loss of life,” he added.
According to official data, since October 1, 2020, U.S. Coast Guard crews have intercepted 663 Cubans compared to 5,396 migrants from the same country in all of fiscal year 2016.
In 2017, 1,468 were intercepted at sea; in 2018 the number dropped to 259; in 2019 it was 313 and in 2020 authorities detained only 49, the statement said.