MIAMI — The Coast Guard Cutter Northland rescued 12 Cuban migrants Sunday from a rustic vessel approximately 20 nautical miles southeast of Key West.
On Sunday at approximately 9 p.m. a Customs and Border Protection Bombardier DHC-8 air crew sighted a rustic vessel beset by heavy weather signaling for assistance. The air crew remained on scene and vectored in the Coast Guard Cutter Northland crew.
The Coast Guard Cutter Northland crew arrived on scene around 11 p.m. Sunday, illuminated the rustic vessel with search lights, and passed life jackets and a strobe to the migrants. A Coast Guard Cutter Northland small boat crew safely transferred all of the migrants to the cutter with no medical concerns.
There were about eight foot seas and winds gusting to almost 30 knots during the rescue.
“We make every effort to rescue those in distress at sea,” said Cmdr. Marc Brandt, the commanding officer of the Northland. “I am extremely proud of our crew for completing this challenging nighttime rescue safely. I doubt that the rustic vessel would have lasted much longer in the strong winds and high seas that the storm had generated. While this group was rescued in the nick of time, attempting to illegally migrate in poorly constructed, unlighted and overcrowded craft is inherently unsafe and puts migrants at extreme risk.”
The 12 migrants were among 36 Cuban migrants repatriated Wednesday toBahia de Cabañas, Cuba by the Coast Guard Cutter Kathleen Moore.
Attempts by Cuban migrants to reach Southeastern U.S. via the sea increased 53% in August from the same time last year. At least 627 Cuban migrants took to the sea in August 2016.
Since Oct. 1, at least 6,393 Cubans have attempted to migrate to the U.S. via maritime means compared to 4,473 in the fiscal year 2015. These statistics represent the total number of at-sea interdictions, landings and disruptions in the Florida Straits, Caribbean and Atlantic.
The Coast Guard Cutter Kathleen Moore is a 154-foot Fast Response Cutter homeported in Key West. The Coast Guard Cutter Northland is a 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutter homeported in Portsmouth, Virginia.