These repatriations are a result of two separate migrant interdictions at sea in the south Florida Straits. In each instance, the Coast Guard helped secure the U.S. border and prevented these perilous sea voyages from ending in tragedy.
On Monday, a Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater HC-130 aircrew located a rustic vessel northeast of Bahia Honda, Cuba, with 24 Cuban migrants aboard. The Coast Guard Cutter Venturous arrived on scene and safely embarked all the migrants with no reports of any injuries.
On Tuesday, a Customs and Border Protection maritime patrol aircraft detected a rustic vessel southwest of Marquesas, Florida, with 18 Cuban migrants aboard. The Coast Guard Cutter Venturous arrived on scene and safely embarked all the migrants with no reports of any injuries.
In another case that occurred today, 18 reported Cuban migrants were picked up by the Royal Caribbean cruise ship,Brilliance of the Seas, west of Marco Island, Florida. The 18 migrants were reportedly suffering from severe dehydration and claimed they left Cuba 22 days ago where nine of the migrants perished at sea during the journey. The 18 migrants are scheduled to be taken to the cruise ship’s next port of call in Conzumel, Mexico.
“Our deepest condolences to the families of the nine people who recently did lose their lives,” said Capt. Mark Gordon, chief of enforcement for the Coast Guard 7th District. “Unfortunately, tragedy is all too common when taking to the sea in homemade vessels with no safety or navigation equipment. The dangerous waters of the Florida Straits can be unforgiving for the unprepared on ill advised and illegal voyages. Immigration policies have not changed and we urge people not to take to the ocean in unseaworthy vessels. It is illegal and extremely dangerous.”
The Coast Guard has observed a steady increase in illegal maritime migration attempts from Cuba to the Southeastern U.S. since the U.S. announcement of normalized diplomatic relations with Cuba in December 2014, nearly 15 months ago. In the month of February 2016, 269 Cuban migrants have attempted to reach U.S. shores.
Since Oct. 1, the Coast Guard 7th District estimates that 2,420 Cubans have attempted to illegally migrate via the sea. These numbers represent the total number of at-sea interdictions, landings and disruptions in the Florida Straits, the Caribbean and Atlantic.