Coast Guard Cutter Charles David Jr. repatriates 55 Cuban migrants

Eighteen Cuban migrants aboard a fishing vessel are interdicted south of Key West, Florida, June 23, 2015. All 18 of the migrants were later repatriated to Cuba. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Eighteen Cuban migrants aboard a fishing vessel are interdicted south of Key West, Florida, June 23, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

MIAMI — Crewmembers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Charles David Jr. repatriated 55 Cuban migrants to Bahia de Cabañas, Cuba, Thursday.

This repatriation is a result of five separate migrant interdictions at sea in the south Florida Straits.  Four of these events were Cubans trying to illegally enter the United States on unseaworthy vessels commonly called “rustics” or “chugs.” In these instances the Coast Guard not only helped secure the U.S. border, but they also prevented these perilous ocean voyages from ending in tragedy.

“Homemade vessels with no navigation or lifesaving equipment trying to cross these dangerous waters is a recipe for disaster,” said Cmdr. Jeff Swanson, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa.

The Tampa along with numerous other Coast Guard patrol boats and aircraft aggressively patrol the Florida Straits to detect and deter illegal and unsafe maritime migration. Safety of life at sea is always the Coast Guard’s top priority.

On Sunday, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine assisted the Coast Guard in safely interdicting a non-compliant Cuban fishing vessel with 18 Cuban migrants aboard approximately 12 miles south of Key West, Florida.  The Office of Air and Marine agents then transferred those individuals to the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa.

“This case is a great example of how the U.S. Coast Guard works with its Department of Homeland Security partner agencies to protect and secure our maritime border,” said Cmdr. Tim Cronin, Coast Guard Seventh District deputy chief of law enforcement. “There is a legal way to enter the United States…this is not it.  We will seek to hold smugglers accountable and quickly repatriate migrants to their country of origin.”

Coast Guard assets involved in these interdictions are:

Coast Guard Cutter Tampa, a 270-foot medium endurance cutter, homeported in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Coast Guard Cutter Isaac Mayo, a 154-foot fast response cutter homeported in Key West.

Coast Guard Cutter Charles David Jr., a 154- foot fast response cutter homeported in Key West.

Since Oct. 1, the Coast Guard 7th District estimates that 2,806 Cubans have attempted to illegally migrate via the sea. These numbers represent the total amount of at-sea interdictions, landings and disruptions in the Florida Straits, the Caribbean and Atlantic.

For more information on how to legally immigrate to the U.S., call U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at 1-800-375-5283 or visit the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov.

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