Coast Guard Repatriates 29 Cuban Migrants

MIAMI – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Knight Island repatriated 29 Cuban migrants to Bahia de Cubanãs, Cuba, Sunday who were interdicted in five separate events between Nov. 26 and Wednesday.

Seven of the 29 Cuban migrants were aboard a rustic vessel interdicted by the crew of the Cutter Sitkinak about 60 miles south of Key West, Fla., Wednesday. On that same day the crew of the Cutter Resolute interdicted a rustic vessel with 16 Cuban migrants aboard 45 miles south of Key West.

A Good Samaritan vessel located a rustic vessel Dec. 2, with 10 Cuban migrants aboard approximately 30 miles north of Puerto Cortez, Honduras. Due to the unseaworthiness of the rustic vessel, the Good Samaritan brought the migrants aboard. The Coast Guard was immediately notified and the Cutter Pea Island was dispatched to recover the Cuban migrants from the Good Samaritan.

The crew of the Cutter Escanaba intercepted a go-fast vessel carrying 29 Cuban migrants and two suspected smugglers six miles south of Cay Sal, Bahamas, Nov. 26. Twenty six of the Cuban migrants have already been repatriated, one has been transferred to Customs and Border Protection officials in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and one is in Nassau, Bahamas, pending further transfer to officials in Spain. The two suspected smugglers were transferred to CBP officials in Key West.

A total of five Cuban migrants are awaiting transfer to CBP officials in Guantanamo Bay.

The Coast Guard disrupted 30 suspected migrant smuggling events in November, resulting in the detention of 61 suspected migrant smugglers. Since Oct. 1, the start of fiscal year 2008, there have been 29 interdictions at sea of Cuban migrants and 53 reported landings, with 678 migrants arriving on U.S. soil and 454 migrants interdicted before reaching U.S. soil. As of Thursday, the total flow of Cuban migrants moving through the southeast border was 1,132 compared to 753 for the same time period in fiscal year 2007.

“While the number of migrants reaching U.S. soil thus far exceeds the number we interdicted at sea, it’s important to note that we disrupted 30 other migrant smuggling attempts and identified 61 suspected smugglers,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chris O’Neil, public affairs officer for the Seventh Coast Guard District. “These disruptions are significant in that we prevent smugglers from putting migrants in harm’s way and we gain valuable intelligence about migrant smuggling operations and their organizations.”

“The increasing use of the Cuba to Mexico route and the increased use of stolen vessels by smugglers tells us that we’re making it very difficult and very expensive for them to carry out their illegal activities in the Florida Straits,” said O’Neil. “However, as long as Cuban Americans protect migrant smugglers and their criminal organizations, and are content to see the lives of their loved ones needlessly endangered by the reckless, negligent and criminal actions of migrant smugglers, we will continue to see migrant smuggling in the Florida Straits.”

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